- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 29, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Before he arrived in the District, Tomas Satoransky was a benefactor of no-blemish buzz, the kind attached to prospects or those with a limited portfolio. The lack of details allowed for projections. More often than not, the mind wanders to a pleasing place when thinking about what could be for an imported talent — the draft day response in New York to Kristaps Porzingis notwithstanding.

Fans waited years for Satoransky to arrive after he was acquired with the rarest of tactics in the Washington Wizards organization: a second-round pick. YouTube video showed Satoransky’s size and athleticism — he routinely won dunk contests in Europe — and suggested maybe the team’s management did something clever by selecting him in 2012 then stashing him until 2016.

But, since Satoransky arrived, it has been difficult to figure out what he is. A large reason for this are his sporadic opportunities. He rarely plays. When he does, his time is split between forward and point guard, the former being the position Wizards coach Scott Brooks has pushed Satoransky into most often. The process has become a square-peg-round-hole battle that may finally be sorted out because of John Wall’s recent knee problems. Satoransky will be on the floor for two weeks as a point guard and nothing else since Wall is unavailable. It’s his chance to rise in the team’s pecking order. It’s also a chance for Satoransky to define to the organization that it should stop using him as small forward, barring emergency.

“I’m not thinking about it right now,” Satoransky said recently. “As the season’s going, I always see where I have a chance to play and I try to focus on it. With [Otto Porter] out it was as a 3, with John [out], I play as a point guard. I’m really trying to focus each game in particular. Now we know they will need me as a point guard. Trying to stay ready for each option.”

Satoransky has played 68 NBA games in his season-plus. His time on the floor has vacillated, just like the way that he has been used. Satoransky is strictly a point guard everywhere but in the NBA. This has been a change for him.

“Obviously, no one wants John to get hurt,” Satoransky said. “He’s our most important player, with Brad [Beal]. But, it happened. I have to stay ready. Being on the court in that position, I feel comfortable. Hopefully, I can get some more games to catch the rhythm.”

Since Wall is out because of a platelet-rich plasma injection into his his sore and stiff left knee, Satoransky has played double-digit minutes in consecutive games for the first time this season. The only time Satoransky has received consistent playing time was last November. He averaged 19.3 minutes per game. The results were mediocre. He shot 39.1 percent from the field and 11.8 percent from behind the 3-point line. Poor shooting ended his consistent time on the floor.

That month, the results, and what has happened since are also a window into how Brooks views what Satoransky should be. Brooks has repeatedly said that he thinks Satoransky can play the wing and point guard because of his size (6-foot-7, 210). The role would be similar in idea to the way the Chicago Bulls deployed Toni Kukoc. Trouble is, it doesn’t seem to fit Satoransky.

He’s visually more comfortable with the ball. He’s more worried about using pace, advancing the ball quickly via a pass or another mechanism to start the offense, than he is to go stand in the corner and wait to take an improved but still moderately effective 3-point shot. Satoransky’s ability when pushing the ball was clear in Tuesday night’s win against Minnesota. In 22 minutes, he scored seven points, provided six assists and added five rebounds. He did not turn the ball over.

“Running fastbreaks, I think a lot of guys can handle that,” Satoransky said. “Playing just with the pace, everyone touching the ball, it’s always helping.”

Satoransky is already on the floor about three hours before every game. Part of his routine is one-on-one with player development staff members. Another part is going through a 3-point shooting routine. The sample size this is too small to draw any conclusions about the state of Satoransky’s 3-point shot. But, watching him play has made it apparent that emphasizing that shot over what he can do has complicated his progress.

He clearly works better with the ball, whether that is moving toward the paint, around a screen or just starting the offense. Satoransky has a solid in-between game which includes a pullup jumper from the elbow when defenders sag against the pick-and-roll.

“I think it’s better for me than shooting 3s,” Satoransky said of the pullup. “I think I feel more comfortable in that. Obviously, you always let the game come to you a little bit. I think I had some open looks off the pick-and-roll. … I think it’s particularly something I work on in the summer. Even if I didn’t play, I still try to work on it.”

Wall is expected to miss two weeks. That provides an opportunity for Satoransky to give Brooks another look at what he can do as a point guard. It will also allow a direct contrast between Satoransky and current backup Tim Frazier, the player in front of Satoransky in the regular rotation, for better or worse. Satoransky’s chance is a result of unwanted circumstances. Sometimes, that’s enough to reveal things that otherwise would have went unseen.

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