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Potential of Tomas Satoransky playing alongside John Wall and Bradley Beal is starting to show

Potential of Tomas Satoransky playing alongside John Wall and Bradley Beal is starting to show

Head coach Scott Brooks and the Wizards front office told Tomas Satoransky at the beginning of this past offseason that they wanted him to improve at playing off the ball. Knowing how much they rely on John Wall as an All-NBA point guard, backup minutes behind him are always few and far between. Positional versatility is the key to Satoransky earning a larger role in their rotation.

Satoransky worked diligently over the summer at parts of the game that are outside his natural point guard skillset. He put up countless three-point shots and trained to develop timing and precision cutting to the basket.

Satoransky got significant minutes this season at first because Wall was injured for a nine-game stretch in November and December. Since Wall returned, the Wizards have seen the dividends of Satoransky's improvement playing off the ball.

"Tomas, give him a lot of credit along with our staff," Brooks said. "He doesn't play exclusively backup point guard. We can play him at the two or the three or we can play him like we have in the last few games with John and with Brad [Beal]."

Satoransky played much of the fourth quarter with both Wall and Beal on Jan. 5 in Memphis. In the five games since, Brooks has experimented with different guard combinations as backup shooting guard Jodie Meeks continues to struggle with a 35.3 field goal percentage.

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On Monday against the Bucks, the potential of Satoransky running the floor with Wall and Beal was on full display as Satoransky caught alley-oop lobs from each of them.

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Satoransky is 6-foot-7 and is a prolific dunker with the ability to play well above the rim. Wall is one of the game's best passers and Beal has made tremendous strides distributing the ball.

Fastbreak dunks are an emphatic way of showing how Satoransky can play off the ball, but there are also little, less noticeable things he is doing to make the most of his time on the court with Wall and/or Beal. Most notably, his three-point shot has improved to 40.5 percent this season, good for third on the Wizards' team. He can help space the floor as Wall and Beal go to work generating the offense.

Satoransky says corner threes are "much easier" for him at the moment, but he is developing range from other parts of the court. Simply getting playing time has helpd.

"It was crucial for me to increase my percentage of threes in order to stay on the court and to play off the ball," he said. "When John got hurt and I knew I was going to play more games, that's when I caught that rhythm where I caught the confidence to shoot threes."

When it comes to cutting to the basket, Satoransky is developing instincts for when to break when Wall has the ball in his hands. Their chemistry is nascent, but the potential is obvious.

"[Opponents] know John tries to drive to the basket and that really sucks in the zone, so I'm trying to cut at good moments and play without the ball," he said. "You have to be sprinting a lot because he's very quick with the ball."

The Wizards are sorting out what to do with their backup shooting guard position. The trade deadline is coming up in a few short weeks on Feb. 8 and they are currently evaluating their options with Meeks slumping. Satoransky may not solve those problems entirely, but his development playing off the ball can only help their cause.

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Wizards at Cavs: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

Wizards at Cavs: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, Kelly Oubre, Jr. and the Washington Wizards battle LeBron James, George Hill, Larry Nance, Jr. and the Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday night.

Here is all you need to know: TV, live stream and radio info, tip-off time, plus three things to watch:

WASHINGTON WIZARDS AT CLEVELAND CAVALIERS

Where: Quicken Loans Arena
Tip-off: 8 p.m.
TV: TNT (pre- and postgame coverage on NBC Sports Washington Plus)
Live stream: TNTdrama.com
Radio: 1500 AM

Back in action

The Wizards return to the court after a week-long layoff due to the All-Star break. Add in the fact that they had three days off before their last game and this will be just the second game for the Wizards in the last 12 days. What is this, football?

The Wizards will try to overcome the rust to keep their momentum going. They entered the All-Star break having won seven of their last nine games. Though the time off was needed due to a wide array of injuries, the Wizards had a good thing going and will aim to recapture that against a good Cavs team.

PODCAST: BIGGEST STORYLINES COMING OUT OF ALL-STAR BREAK

Tough stretch

The Wizards come back with a game against the Cavs, a difficult first assignment after such a long layoff. But this is just the beginning of what will be a very difficult part of their schedule. In their next 17 games, the Wizards will play 15 times against teams currently holding playoff spots. That includes the Warriors, Celtics, Spurs and Raptors.

The schedule is tough beyond their opponents. Four times in the next three weeks they will play back-to-back games and they have five games in the next seven nights. Hopefully the players recharged their batteries because it won't be easy.

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New-look Cavs

The Wizards and Cavs have played twice this season already and Cleveland took both of those matchups. However, that was all before the trade deadline when the Cavs overhauled their roster. They have won all three of their games since and look rejuvenated with younger players.

Now surrounding LeBron James are a host of new faces like George HIll, Rodney Hood, Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance, Jr. It will be interesting to see how the Wizards match up with this new group.

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Bradley Beal thoroughly impressed by LeBron James after being his teammate at All-Star Game

Bradley Beal thoroughly impressed by LeBron James after being his teammate at All-Star Game

As a member of the Washington Wizards, Bradley Beal has had many battles with LeBron James over the years, first with the Miami Heat and now with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Over the weekend, Beal got to experience having James as a teammate for the first time at the All-Star Game in Los Angeles.

It was an eye-opening endeavor. Beal got to see up close and personal James' abilities and his routine to maximize them. In a group of the best players on the planet, James stood out.

"It was surreal at first, just being around all the guys," Beal said. "Even just being on his team for two days, that was an unbelievable experience."

PODCAST: BIGGEST STORYLINES COMING OUT OF ALL-STAR BREAK

Beal, 24, is six seasons in to his NBA career and from experience has learned how to train for the rigors of an 82-game regular season. What James does at 33 years old to stay in peak form, however, is next level.

"To see his preparation, his focus and his mentality and what he does to take care of his body before and after games," Beal said. "That's the true testament to a Hall of Famer and one of the best to ever play the game."

James actually assisted Beal's first points in the All-Star Game, a two-handed dunk in the first quarter. James attacked the rim on a fastbreak to draw attention, then found Beal with a dump-off pass for an easy bucket.

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It was an example of James' tricks of the trade. He is not just the most athletic player on the court, he is also the smartest when it comes to the game of basketball.

"His approach and his leadership and everything, it's top notch. It's crazy because you always play against him and to play with him, you get experience the other side of it," Beal said.

Beal, however, did note that much of what he gleaned from James was by watching him. At the end of the day, they are competitors and James isn't going to give away all of his secrets.

"He's not disclosing that information," Beal joked.

The Wizards happen to play James and the Cavs in their first game back from the All-Star break on Thursday night. Once again, Beal will be on the other side. 

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