R-E-L-A-X: The Wizards Will Be Just Fine With Tomas Satoransky | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

R-E-L-A-X: The Wizards Will Be Just Fine With Tomas Satoransky

Updated: February 1, 2018

WHEN THE NEWS broke that John Wall would miss six-to-eight weeks with another knee surgery, the reaction was predictably morbid. There goes the season. The Wizards are done. The playoffs are no longer guaranteed.

But, I felt differently.

That’s because the doomsday prognosticators were ignoring two very important things:

1) the Wizards were playing rather poorly with John Wall, and

2) Wall’s replacement, Tomas Satoransky, has a very unique set of skills that is perfectly suited to cure what ails the starting lineup.

On the first point, the Wizards were performing below expectations the first 48 games of the season. The offense was inconsistent and stagnant at times, the effort was abhorrent, team chemistry was non-existent and defense was optional. They needed a serious jolt — either through a trade or lineup change — and it had become increasingly obvious that neither would happen.

Washington has insufficient assets and cap space to trade for an impact player and Scott Brooks, despite threatening to make changes after each embarrassing loss, called his own bluff every time.

In other words, Wall’s injury did not derail the Wizards’s season. The train was already careening off the tracks by the time Wall flew to Cleveland for a second opinion on his bothersome left knee.

To the contrary, Wall’s injury, while unfortunate, provided the perfect cover for Brooks to make a drastic change and it just might end up saving the season.

This brings me to the main point of the story: The Wizards will be just fine with Tomas Satoransky in the starting lineup. I know it sounds strange, but set aside your knee-jerk assumptions and hear me out.

Satoransky is the Rodney Dangerfield of the Washington Wizards. He gets no respect.

Even his own general manager and coach did not believe in him. On the very same day Ernie Grunfeld signed Satoransky to a three-year contract, Ernie traded a second round pick so that Trey Burke could play ahead of Tomas. One year later Ernie did the exact same thing, trading a second round pick for Tim Frazier to be the primary backup point guard to Wall.

All the while, Scott Brooks refused to even acknowledge that Satoransky was a point guard and buried him deep on the bench.

There were even doubters on this very website. When I tweeted that the Wizards would be fine with Satoransky starting against Atlanta last week, none other than the founder of Truth About It responded: “Versus Dennis [Schroder]. I’m not so sure.” Et tu, Kyle?

For some reason, people only see the negatives when they evaluate Satoransky:

  • He has trouble against quicker point guards
  • He sometimes turns his back against pressure bringing the ball up court
  • He’s not a great spot up shooter.

All those things are true. But, so what?

All scouting reports look shaky if only the cons are listed. Here, I’ll show you. LeBron James:

  • Turns the ball over too much
  • Poor free throw shooter
  • Passive-aggressive front-runner who will quit on his team and leave in free agency if things don’t go his way

Doesn’t sound so good, does it?

Let’s get one thing straight before going any further. Am I saying Satoransky is anywhere near as good as John Wall? No, of course not. But that’s not the point. He doesn’t have to be.

Satoransky is a completely different player with a completely different skill set. It just so happens that Satoransky’s very unique set of skills fits perfectly with what the starting lineup has been missing all season.

He’s the jolt the team needs to shock them back to their Eastern Conference contending ways and his temporary presence in the starting lineup will put this team in a better position when a healthy John Wall finally returns.

Here are the four reasons why:

1. Quick Ball Movement

The ball never sticks in Satoransky’s hands. He is always looking to advance the ball to a player in a better scoring position. If theres’s a mismatch in the post, Tomas will create a lane for an entry pass. When he drives, he’s looking for an open teammate — almost to a fault.

There are never any zero-pass possessions when Satoransky is running the point. That’s because he never calls his own number, which means each possession begins with at least an attempt to run an offensive set.

Again, this is not a knock on John Wall who has the ability to create his own shot and sprint by opponents. That is an elite skill and a major component of Washington’s offense. But with his field goal percentage at an almost career-low 41.7-percent and his mid-range jumper especially off, Wall’s quick trigger has not led to an efficient Wizards offense this season.

Satoransky brings a more egalitarian approach to the offense. In Satoransky’s starts versus Atlanta and Oklahoma City, five Wizards players registered double-digit shot attempts. Satoransky himself only attempted nine shots total over the two games.

To put that in perspective, the last time Washington had five players shoot ten or more times was December 1, a blowout win over the Detroit Pistons in a game that John Wall missed due to injury and both Satoransky and Tim Frazier played 23 minutes.

You have to go all the way back to November 13 against Sacramento to find a game that Wall started where five players shot at least 10 times — and Wall was one of them.

Washington’s offense had become entirely too dependent on Wall and Beal. Satoransky’s insertion into the starting lineup will get everyone more involved. Otto will be more aggressive, Markieff will spread the floor and Wall will have so many more weapons at his disposal when he returns.

2. Off-Ball Movement

This is one skill that John Wall could actually learn from Satoransky. When Tomas hands the ball to Beal (or anyone else for that matter) on the perimeter, he is far from a spectator. He dives into the lane, makes himself available for a pass or drifts to the corner and tries to catch his defender sleeping for a baseline cut. In short, his participation in the play does not end the moment he gives up the ball.

This type of movement does two things. First, it opens up space for Beal and other shooters on the perimeter by drawing a help defender away from the action.

Second, it keeps the offense in motion. When Satoransky enters a teammate’s space, that player is prompted to move as well, flashing to the lane or cutting along the baseline. Several times against Oklahoma City, Bradley Beal was bailed out by a cutting teammate at the end of a possession. Earlier this season, those same possessions have too often ended in forced jumpers when the offense stagnates.

3. Position Defense

Here’s where Satoransky really gets no respect. Tomas does not have great lateral agility, so when he gets beat by a quicker guard it looks bad. I get that. But Satoransky more than makes up for it with exceptional position defense. Tomas is great at anticipating moves and staying in front of his man and, with his 6-foot-7 frame, he can recover and contest shots even when he does get beat.

In the final two minutes of a tight game against the Thunder, Satoransky was isolated on Westbrook on several occasions and forced him into tough passes almost every time. Westbrook was visibly frustrated by his inability to get to the rim and the one twisting layup he hit was well-contested.

Just as important, Tomas does not die on screens. The Wizards’ perimeter defenders get into trouble when they don’t even bother fighting through picks. Instead, they automatically switch, which leads to mismatches. Satoransky allows the Wizards to play more straight up defense because he always hustles around picks.

With his size, Tomas can also cover four positions. This versatility allows Washington to trap aggressively like they did against Oklahoma City to get the ball out of Russell Westbrook’s hands. It also allows Washington to switch all defensive match-ups from 1 to 4 when Washington plays small ball.

4. Ball Security

Satoransky does not make mistakes. He leads the league in assist to turnover ratio (4.2) and he has a combined 13 assists and two turnovers in his two starts against Atlanta and Oklahoma City. That type of mistake-free basketball is exactly what the Wizards need in Wall’s absence.

When John is playing, you can tolerate a few careless turnovers because he creates so many scoring opportunities with the ball in his hands. Satoransky does not have that luxury, especially when he is running the second unit. If you are not going to score, you sure as hell better not turn it over.

There you have it. The sky is not falling. Life will go on. The Washington Wizards will be in the 2018 NBA Playoffs and no one will want to face them in the first round. Assuming John Wall returns from his injury as scheduled in six-to-eight weeks, he will inherit a team that is in better shape than when he left it.



Adam Rubin on EmailAdam Rubin on Twitter
Adam Rubin
Reporter / Writer at TAI
Adam grew up in the D.C. area and has been a Washington Bullets fan for over 25 years. He will not refer to the franchise as anything other than the Bullets unless required to do so by Truth About It editorial standards. Adam spent many nights at the Capital Centre in the ‘90s where he witnessed such things as Michael Jordan’s “LaBradford Smith game,” the inexcusable under-usage of Gheorghe Muresan’s unstoppable post moves, and the basketball stylings of Ledell Eackles.