Even after a heartbreaking loss like the Chicago Bulls’ most recent against the San Antonio Spurs, it’s hard to ignore the improvements they’re seeing from their new starting five.
Head coach Billy Donovan was forced to pull former lottery picks Coby White and Wendell Carter Jr. just three games back from the All-Star break, after back-to-back losses to Miami and Philadephia.
He went with Tomas Satoransky and Thaddeus Young in their places, with the latter less of a surprise than the former.
Thus far, it’s looking like a real solution to their past troubles. Particularly in the backcourt. Satoransky’s recorded three straight games with seven assists, marking the second time he’s done so this season.
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The Satoransky-LaVine Connection is Real
It took just two games for Zach LaVine to provide vindication toward Donovan’s latest lineup change. The first-year All-Star dropped 40 points in Chicago’s win over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Tuesday night.
Credit LaVine’s newest backcourt partner, Satoransky, at least partly for the guard’s big night. After the game, the 29-year old guard spoke highly (via NBC Sports) of their chemistry in the backcourt:
We don’t need to even speak to ourselves, we just see on the floor. I see how he’s guarded, he knows how to cut and what time… I think the best thing to do for him is to get him easy points that he doesn’t need to work that much for.
Per NBA.com, the Bulls are posting a 121.4 Offensive Rating with Satoransky and LaVine on the floor, the best among all qualified two-man lineups this season. That’s to go along with a 109 Defensive Rating, and +12.4 net rating.
With White on the floor instead of Satoransky, those numbers drop to 110.6 on offense and climb to 116.5 on defense.
In short: not only is Donovan’s starting lineup switch paying off, but it’s a stark improvement. The only question now is what it means for the team’s approach to the fast-approaching trade deadline.
Chicago May Have to Hold on to Satoransky, For Now
Prior to Satoransky’s bump into the starting lineup, he was considered more of a potential trade piece, with the NBA’s trade deadline just a week away. Rob Schaefer of NBC Sports noted the veteran as a trade candidate on Thursday morning in his latest trade deadline primer:
Tomas Satoransky — who has been productive in his minutes, revived his shooting and owns a partial guarantee next season — and Garrett Temple also profile as productive veterans.
But as he went on to mention, Donovan’s gamble with the lineup change may prove consequential two-fold:
The snag: Donovan’s recent change to insert Young and Satoransky into the starting lineup for Wendell Carter Jr. and Coby White telegraphed both a desire to maximize the current roster, and a perception that Young and Satoransky are essential to the team’s competitiveness.
As a productive guard with a non-guaranteed salary for next season, it’s possible that Satoransky’s recent surge may have only yielded more potential trade suitors.
But given the success the Bulls are seeing with him on the floor and in the starting lineup, letting him go will likely require a price most teams would prefer not to pay.
There are just four games separating the Chicago Bulls and the deadline. It’s not a stretch to say every single one will count towards not only Tomas Satoransky’s but almost every other player’s status in the trade market.