Bulls Lead

Bulls Execute Strong Free Agency Backup Plan

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The 2019 NBA Free Agency period has begun and the Bulls have executed their plan of adding quality veteran reserves to the roster.

Amidst the noise of all the superstar player movement making headlines during this free agent frenzy, the Chicago Bulls have quietly and confidently executed their off-season plan of adding veteran talent and experience to their talented but inexperienced young roster.

At the end of last season, team management made it clear that their goal was to develop their young core by signing veterans who could provide leadership and mentorship while strengthening their bench. Now that they’ve made some moves towards accomplishing their plan of adding quality backups, let’s take a look at some of the players the Bulls have added so far.

Thaddeus Young

Thaddeus Young is a 12-year veteran who played the last three seasons with the Indiana Pacers. He averaged nearly 12 PPG, 6.3 RPG and 1.6 SPG, as an athletic, two-way stretch four who can also provide minutes at the three. In my last article, “Bulls Will Need Experienced Vets to Teach New Blood“, Thad Young was on my short list of forwards the Bulls should target. He was signed for three years at $41 million, with some guaranteed protections on the third year.

The team will likely utilize him in a sixth man role, where he can bring his versatile skill set to the second unit. With Lauri Markkanen expected to play more minutes at center next season, Young can come off the bench and allow Otto Porter Jr. to remain at small forward. This would provide the Bulls with two 6’8″, defensive-minded, front court wing players, who could also switch out and guard quicker players on the perimeter. Unfortunately, many casual Bulls fans may not be familiar with Young. So perhaps a better way to quantify what he brings to the court is to explain his value though advanced basketball metrics.

The two most important metrics to use when describing a player’s overall value are Win Shares and Value over Replacement Player. Win Shares (WS) is used to demonstrate how much overall success a player brings to their team, while Value over Replacement Player (VORP) is a very good indicator of a player’s value and is the most significant factor for predicting Win Shares.

In 2018-19, Young’s WS was 6.9, which ranked 39th among all qualified players in the league and was 6th among power forwards, behind only Giannis Antetokounmpo, Pascal Siakam, Blake Griffin, Jerami Grant and Tobias Harris. In regards to VORP, he ranked 31st overall and 4th among power forwards behind only the first three PF listed in the WS metric above. These numbers prove how valuable Young’s on-court production should be for this team.

In the locker room, Young will also be a veteran anchor. As Indiana’s team captain last season, he demonstrated his leadership by holding the team together after Victor Oladipo went down with a season-ending leg injury. Thaddeus Young is an extremely valuable player who should justify his worth and be a great addition to the Bulls’ rotation.

Tomás Satoransky

The team added another important piece in the backcourt when they completed a sign-and-trade for Washington Wizards restricted free agent, Tomás Satoransky. He’s a 6-7, combo point guard who averaged 10.7 PPG, 6.2 APG, and over 40% from the arc in 54 starts last season for the injured John Wall. Similar to Young’s contract, “Sato” signed for three years at $30 million, with some guaranteed protections on the third year.

Sataronsky is a high IQ player who shoots efficiently, passes effectively and handles the ball creatively, while giving up just 1.5 turnovers per game. As a willing defender, his length and size give him an advantage that allow him to effectively switch and guard up to three positions. The Bulls expect him to compete for the starting PG role with Coby White. Regardless of his role, Satoransky should provide quality depth at both guard positions.

As yet another player who casual fans may be unfamiliar with, Satoransky’s advanced metrics are also considerable in determining his value. He finished in the top 100 (97th) overall in Win Shares (WS) with 4.7, better than Ricky Rubio, Cory Joseph and Terry Rozier – who all signed contracts for more money. Tomás Satoransky is also considered by his teammates to be one of the hardest working players on the team. That kind of work ethic should make him a Jim Boylen and Zach LaVine favorite.

Luke Kornet

While not much of a veteran, seven-footer Luke Kornet was signed by the Bulls to a two-year deal on Tuesday. Kornet is a 23-year-old center who played his first two seasons between the New York Knicks and their G-League affiliate in Westchester. During his 2019 time in the developmental league, he made the 3rd team All-NBA G-League, posting averages of 18.8 PPG, 8.8 RPG and 3.4 APG. He also helped his team eliminate the Windy City Bulls from the G-League playoffs.

Kornet brings a particular skill set that complements the Bulls’ bench well. As a backup stretch five option behind Wendell Carter Jr., he should provide an element the Bulls haven’t had in their previous center options. Shooting 36% from beyond the arc and getting over 40 blocks in just 46 NBA games played is a small but impressive sample size. On offense, he can help open up driving lanes for second unit rim slashers like White, Hutchison and Young, by spacing the floor with his outside shooting. On defense, he protects the rim and with his length and effective shot blocking.

Unfortunately, Kornet may not see a lot of minutes because of the emergence of Carter and with Markkanen spending more time at center. Nevertheless, he is a nice insurance piece to have in case of injury to either starter. Perhaps, the Bulls ultimately signed him because of how good he played against them (15 points, 7.3 rebounds, 2 assists, 3.3 blocks) last season. I guess if you can’t beat ’em, buy ’em.

Backup Plan In Place

So far, it appears that the Bulls have been successful at executing their off-season free agency plan of adding quality depth pieces to their young core. They still have some flexibility with the room exception to possibly include another perimeter wing shooter. The team also vastly improved their coaching staff by adding new assistant coaches, Chris Fleming and Roy Rodgers, to help improve their offensive and defensive efficiency.

Their roster is much deeper now with talent at each position. Provided the Bulls can stay healthy this year, they should be better on both ends of the court. Whether they can win enough games to make the playoffs remains to be seen. If nothing else, they should be a fun team to watch and root for every night.

Follow us on Twitter @BullsLead for the latest free agency news and insight!

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About Ben Rodriguez

NBA league analyst and Chicago Bulls basketball writer. A true Bulls fan since the Jordan era and long after.

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