• Tomas Satoransky is a 6’7” combo guard from Czech Republic with freakish athletic abilities and explosiveness who was selected as the No. 32 overall pick in the 2012 NBA draft. His measurements were impressive – a standing reach of 8’4″, a wingspan of 6’7″ and a vertical jump at 1’9″. Wizards’ fans are familiar with another extremely athletic Czech product, Jan Vesely, the No. 6 pick in the 2010 Draft who ended up lasting only a few seasons in the NBA before making it back to Europe. Even though Satoransky was a second round pick and teams rarely get a major piece out of those picks (approximately 20 percent of them remain in the league after three years) his recent surge offers plenty of optimism.

    He played with Kristaps Porzingis in Sevilla in KP’s last season before getting selected by the Knicks and he developed great chemistry with him, leading European powerhouse FC Barcelona to sign him to a lucrative deal. After a year in which he had to adjust to the city, the team and a new coaching style he earned the award for Most Spectacular Player, eventually replacing world class point guard and former Laker Marcelinho Huertas.

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    Rocky Transition to the NBA

    Like most second round picks, Satoransky decided to play overseas with Sevilla and Barcelona for the past four years in order to improve his game while he wasn’t sure if he wanted to simply be John Wall’s backup. In fact, he felt that HE was the point guard of the future for the Wizards and got upset when the Wizards re-signed John Wall because he was under the impression that he would be brought over to start. He also refused to join the Wizards’ Summer League team after playing three Summer League games when he was drafted because he felt that he didn’t have anything to prove. What did change his mind you might ask?

    Credit Scott Brooks for facilitating the move to the NBA. Before Brooks took the Wizards job, he watched Satoransky in practices with FC Barcelona and last summer, when teammates gathered in Los Angeles for bonding over basketball, Brooks prepped Satoransky by extending an invitation to his home. The coach put his rookie through drills inside an Orange County high school gymnasium during a crash course before minicamp as he wanted to make sure Satoransky was ready for the American game. He also wanted to test Satoransky’s basketball acumen.

    Satoransky, as expected, struggled in his his rookie season to the point where he looked like he didn’t belong in the league. The Wizards were willing to give him minutes over Trey Burke but he wasn’t ready and created many laughable highlights.

    Obviously you have some doubts,” Satoransky said, “but I’m not a quitter.” Satoransky has recently played with a distinct poise and confidence he hasn’t shown since his time in the EuroLeague. He has always been a winner and competes hard but I could see how playing for an NBA team has been a challenge, especially for a group of veterans led by John Wall, Bradley Beal and Markieff Morris.

    Is He a Point Guard?

    Here is what Brooks said last year before the start of the Wizards’ training camp: “When you look at him, he has good size. He’s athletic, but what position is he? Everyone told me he plays point, but when you can talk to a player away from the game and ask him questions about the game, you know if he’s a point guard or not. And he’s a point guard.”

    Tomas can definitely play the point guard as he possesses great size, excellent vision and the necessary ball handling ability to pass the ball effectively and make the right decision. He is comfortable with the ball in his hands, knows when to push, controls the tempo and really doesn’t mind the extra pass. His assist to turnover ratio is at an impressive 6.75 percent as he is averaging only 0.4 turnovers per game and generally protects the ball. Here is Satoransky quickly identifying a slow reaction by rookie John Collins and delivering a lob pass to Chris McCullogh for the easy dunk.

    A smooth player with a quick first step and a strong ability to finish in traffic, he plays the pick-and-roll superbly and can either pull up if the defense goes under or will use his combination of size, ball-handling and solid athleticism to attack downhill against the big man. The Czech product does a great job of playing in space both in pick-and-roll and transition situations and when he gets to the basket he is a creative finisher. He has been a big time beneficiary of the presence of Jodie Meeks this year as Brooks likes playing them together. Here is the typical play where Satoransky dives onto the pick-and-roll with no intention of attacking but with his mind focused on when Meeks comes out of the screen rotation.

    Unfortunately, Saty is the typical example of a player that does a great job playing in space but struggles to create that space and shots for himself. He is not going to break people down in isolation or beat good pick-and-roll defense. He doesn’t force the action but will hurt teams with his slashing and passing ability. His European teams used to run set lob plays while having him play off ball more than he does in Washington since his natural instincts as a cutter allow him to get loose and finish around the rim. I don’t believe this will change anytime soon since Brooks looks committed at developing him as a true point guard. He possesses standout athletic ability for European standards and he’s a spectacular dunker which leads to easy buckets in transition.

    Tomas is a good spot-up shooter with solid range out to the three point line but his release is too slow and many times it looks like he’s on the verge of getting blocked. One of the plays the Wizards run the most is a flare pick-and-roll where John Wall attacks the paint by using a (double) screen on the top of the key creating a corner three which is occasionally facilitated by a backscreen that leaves someone wide open. That play is a great way of keeping Satoransky on the floor as a shooting guard while counterbalancing his slow release. It’s also the most efficient shot in basketball outside of the paint.

    He shot really poorly in his rookie season but he has been turning it around this year with percentages in the high .400s. Shooting is not his primary offensive weapon but even in Europe his numbers were solid and he simply has to become a consistent option from deep if he wants to earn more playing time as an off the ball guard.

    Can He be a Difference-Maker on Defense?

    Satoransky has all the tools to be a good defensive player because of his athleticism and versatility to defend multiple positions. It’s not very often that we see a point guard with his combination of height, length and wingspan that provides him with an advantage over most players on the floor. While Satoransky is at a quickness disadvantage compared to most smaller guards, he can easily compensate that with his length advantage.

    That kind of skillset hasn’t been translated to many defensive stats so far in the NBA but he has never been a big steals or blocks players, even while playing in Europe. What makes him special is his ability to effectively defend perimeter shots and comfortably switch onto opposing shooting guards and occasionally some small forwards. That type of defensive versatility is rare in a guard, so even if Satoransky isn’t a high impact defender he can help a team a lot with his ability to fill any hole. Here is a sequence with him defending a smaller quicker guard in Tyus Jones. While Jones uses a quick first step and drives to the basket Satoransky is able to compensate for losing ground on him and close out quickly, forcing a bad shot as the shot clock expires.

    Saty clearly is not ready to commit to defending small forwards just yet as the players can be much bigger and physical there. “I don’t think about the three position. I would have to build my body and my whole skills play against the three position,” he said. “I can see myself on a point guard and two position. It’s very different to guard point guards in Europe and here. It’s much more complicated here. Everyone’s fast, athletic.”

    Scott Brooks is probably right and Satoransky should continue to get used as a point guard due to his combination of solid decision making and exemplary passing vision. He’s not an exceptionally creative playmaker, but he just knows how to run an offense and does a good job finding shooters or big men around the rim. His hustle is also undeniable and Scott Brooks seems like he understands how to properly use him on the floor by having him defend smaller guards while also helping box out and crush the boards. The following highlight is the kind of play that shows how he can outwork his opponents and create offense out of defense.

    Can He Take Over the Backup Position?

    Through the seven game stretch without Wall, Satoransky is averaging 8.1 points, 3.0 rebounds and 4.4 assists while committing just one turnover in almost 160 minutes of action. Satoransky has a plus-minus of plus-26 while Tim Frazier has a plus-minus of minus-13 with almost identical playing time. The Wizards had some serious depth issues at the backup point guard position in recent years and decided to trade a second round pick this summer in order to acquire Frazier. While Frazier hasn’t impressed I don’t anticipate Brooks pushing him out of the rotation even if it’s hard to argue against Satoransky, primarily because of what he can bring you on both ends of the floor. The expectation to play on a regular basis has helped, as Satoransky looks more comfortable than in his previous stints. He is not a dynamic enough playmaker to be an NBA starter, but a solid two-way guard with positional versatility that should continue to provide a lot of value off the bench.

    Thank you for reading and please don’t hesitate to let us know about an international prospect that you would want to learn more about in the coming weeks.

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