With the 32nd pick in the 2012 draft, the Washington Wizards selected Tomas Satoransky. Four years later, after getting out of his contract to play overseas, he’s finally suiting up for them. As training camp got under way, Satoransky immediately turned heads, throwing down a wicked pair of dunks. His hops, along with athleticism that surprised many of his teammates and a basketball IQ that everyone says is off the charts, has made him a pleasant surprise so far.
Immediately, your first thought might be that we’ve seen this before. A young European player is drafted, stays in overseas for a few years and then transitions to the NBA, but doesn’t really pan out (see Vesely, Jan). But early preseason signs tell us Satoransky should be different. Many European players have found it difficult to adjust to the different rules between international basketball and the NBA, as well as finding it tough to keep up with the pace of multiple games per week and limited practice time. Satoransky, however, seems to have a few things working in his favor to avoid those issues. For one, he knows not to be scared (via CSN Mid-Atlantic):
“It’s a little bit about getting the respect of the guys, of the league. When you cannot be scared, go for it and play, I was very excited to be there playing my first preseason game for an NBA team. Tried to show off a little bit, gain a little respect because that’s what it’s all about in this league. Not to be scared of anyone.”
Head coach Scott Brooks is already familiar with Satoransky’s game, having watched him play in Europe. This should help Brooks with understanding exactly when and how to plug him into the lineup. Satoransky is also taking a proactive approach adjusting to the NBA game. He was known overseas as a three-point sharp shooter, having hit 44 percent of his attempts last season, but the NBA three point line is a foot and a half further out than the international line. To compensate for this, Satoransky has been working on strengthening his legs and ankles to prepare for the longer distance.
Finally, he’s got a teammate he can lean on for advice regarding the transition to the NBA. Marcin Gortat spent five years playing overseas before coming to the NBA in 2007 with the Orlando Magic. Already a big fan of Satoransky, and a big reason why Satoransky made the jump to the Wizards, the nine-year veteran has taken him under his wing just like Hedo Turkoglu once did for him.
With Satoransky poised to succeed, the question becomes, how does Brooks use him? Not surprisingly, since we see this with many European players, Satoransky has the shooting range and ball skills to play guard and he is expected to be the top reserve for point guard John Wall and shooting guard Bradley Beal. However, his 6’7” frame may also allow him to be used at small forward.
This is what makes him such an intriguing player for the Wizards. No doubt Wall is a true point guard who can distribute and get the offense running smoothly, but he is also a scorer and may be at his best when he’s in that role. With Satoransky’s ability to play the point, the Wizards could use a lineup with Satoransky, Wall and Beal on the floor, using Satoransky’s natural inclination to distribute to allow Wall and Beal to move without the ball, creating favorable matchups and good looks at the basket.
In other words, envision Satoransky being more of a point-forward (creating potential mismatches for him to exploit) a la Scottie Pippen, Lebron James and even Magic Johnson. Granted, he has a long way to go to achieve a Hall of Fame level, but he has the athleticism and range to allow the Wizards to use him this way. In the ever evolving NBA with small ball and isolation plays becoming the norm, having a player with Satoransky’s versatility, could make the Wizards a surprise contender in the East.