Satoransky’s Uncertainty Just Part of Wizards Search for Wall’s Backup
For the past two seasons the Washington Wizards have tried to field an adequate backup to John Wall. Both times they’ve come up short and have paid the price when Wall’s been hurt or has simply needed to rest. Now, having also seen the toll that heavy minutes can take on Bradley Beal’s body, it’s as important as ever that the Wizards get proper backcourt support off the bench.
Left on the side of the road by from Indiana, A.J. Price was brought in for the 2012-13 season to backup Wall at the veteran’s minimum. The Wizards were hesitant to commit more salary by way of the mid-level exception, for example, on a backup. Price, while productive at times, had a “perfectly imperfect” season. And while he wasn’t the scapegoat, the Wizards started the year 5-28 while Wall sat out to recover from a stress injury.
The Eric Maynor signing on the first day of free agency in 2013 has probably been reviewed by the league for a flopping fine. The idea behind using the full bi-annual exception (2-years, $4.1 million and change total) on Maynor was for him to use his quickness, ability to get into the lane, and 3-point shot to help spell and sometimes play alongside Wall. Instead, he was a clock with no hands, and pretty bad at defense, too. The Wizards ended up trading Jan Vesely and a second round pick to get rid of Maynor and rent his decade-older replacement, Andre Miller.
And Miller helped. Without him, the Wizards would been lost when Wall had to go to the bench. Now Miller sits on the roster for one more season at the price of $4.625 million (of which only $2 million is said to be guaranteed). If Washington waived Miller, they would essentially have to find a better replacement for $2.625 million while they pay Miller $2 million to check out of the Wizards’ bed and breakfast of backup point guards. Count on Miller returning.
But this is also where 2012 second round pick Tomas Satoransky potentially checks in for an extended stay. He just completed a successful season for Cajasol in the Spanish ACB League, leading them to the playoffs after a losing season prior. Satoransky is now a free agent to the world (and thus a buyout from his European club to play in the NBA is not a concern).
Satoransky is super athletic (check YouTube clips of his dunks), and a solid 6-foot-7. He finished sixth in the ACB’s rankings of most valuable players. But before running the credit card, the Wizards want to see what he’s got against NBA-level athleticism, again.
“We hope to have him for summer league and talk to him and see how he’s progressed,” said team president of basketball operations Ernie Grunfeld about Satoransky back on June 4. “He’s had a very good year over in Spain.” A visit to Washington would also likely entail a mini-camp before summer league and more exposure to Randy Wittman’s coaching staff.
Satoransky would seemingly rather be wooed than asked to perform against teens and never-have-beens in the Las Vegas, explicitly telling the Czech media that he does not want to play in the summer league, having previously played for the Wizards in 2012.
“They know my game and I don’t see any reason why I should play there again,” Satoransky tells Czech BasketMag (full interview here). “Another Summer League would do close to nothing for my individual improvement.”
Despite using a high second round pick on the Czech (32nd overall), despite Satoransky’s success in one of the top pro leagues outside of the U.S., and despite Washington’s need for a young, change-of-pace guard to pair with Wall and Beal off the bench, the Wizards seem unwilling to relent from asking Satoransky to show his cards first.
Although the NBA is a goal for any player, Satoransky has also stated that he wouldn’t mind being lead dog on a better team in Europe. Cajasol, Satoransky’s team since 2009, finished seventh in the ACB this season and never better than sixth during Satoransky’s tenure, twice fielding a losing record.
“After this season, I’d like to be on the team where there’s more rivalry and competition [between guards], where I’ll fight for a spot in the rotation,” he says.
Anadolu Efes, one of the best teams in the Turkish Basketball League, is rumored to be offering Satoransky 1.7 million Euros (about $2.3 U.S. dollars) over three years (as reported by EuroHoops.net). TAI’s own Lukas Kuba reports that Satoransky might rather stay in Spain and play for FC Barcelona than be glued to the bench in the NBA after a summertime tryout. Including this season, Barcelona—also home to Juan Carlos Navarro, once-upon-a-time almost Wizard—has appeared in each of the last eight ACB finals and is looking for their fourth title in that span as they get set to face rival powerhouse Real Madrid in a three game series that starts on June 19.
As of now, Satoransky remains undecided. He’s committed to rest before training camp with the Czech Republic national team starts later this summer. Group play for EuroBasket 2015 qualification starts this August 10 for the Czechs. His words to the Czech media: “Going to the U.S. now wasn’t in my plans at all.”
If the Wizards were to offer a guaranteed deal, Satoransky would likely lighten his stance about not showing up for summer league and would take part like any other pre-NBA newbie (and maybe teach Otto Porter a thing or two). But a guaranteed deal might not be practical—not without more of a peek, and also not before Satoransky risks his assets in international play. Some players like Manu Ginobili don’t come to the NBA until age 25; Satoransky will turn 23 in October.
Washington, perhaps understandably, sees Satoransky as more of a risk than say, an Eric Maynor. Even though Satoransky would come cheaper, has the upside, and possesses the size and athleticism of a young Ginobili (but not the jump shot, unfortunately, which could be a problem). Then again, Satoransky has improved his 3-point percentage from .283 (13-46) to .333 (31-93) to .349 (30-86) over the past three seasons in Spain. Worth noting that the entire FIBA 3-point arc is essentially the same distance from the rim (22.1′) as an NBA corner 3 (22′).
The impasse, at least for this summer, will be resolved eventually. If Satoransky does decide to sign with Barcelona, the Wizards will still retain his rights unless they pull a draft day trade, which is probably why he suspects he won’t know more until the day of the NBA draft, June 26. Whether this particular window turns into missed opportunity and a more obscure ending to Washington’s dabbling with Czech Republic draft picks: To be determined.
UPDATE: A Spanish outlet (@baloncestoTAP) is reporting that Satoransky has come to a tentative agreement to play for Valencia BC of the ACB League. Valencia finished third in the league this past season and qualified for the 2014-15 Euroleague. Satoransky’s previous team, Cajasol, finished seventh and only qualified for the 2014-15 Eurocup. Stay tuned… (h/t: @Luke_Mellow).