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.
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.