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After best game of career, Wizards' Satoransky has his confidence back

After best game of career, Wizards' Satoransky has his confidence back

Tomas Satoransky has had a tumultuous few weeks. After getting zero minutes in 13 of 18 games from Dec. 2 through Jan. 8, the Wizards rookie fell ill. An hour before their game on Jan. 10 against the Bulls, Satoransky packed his bag at the Verizon Center, wished his teammates good luck and went home. He remained there the next day as the Wizards traveled to Boston to play the Celtics.

Satoransky's nascent NBA career had hit a lowpoint. He was out of the rotation completely and now not even with the team, instead resting and watching on TV. That was not how he envisioned his first season going.

But once Satoransky started feeling better, he returned to practice revitalized. Head coach Scott Brooks saw a renewed focus.

"He came back from the flu and had a good practice four or five days ago, a couple of good shootarounds. He was active," Brooks said.

That led to Satoransky earning 21 minutes of action on Jan. 14, his first game back after being sick. That was his most minutes in nearly two months, and Satoransky made the most of them. He scored four points and grabbed four rebounds against the Sixers, showing enough to Brooks to receive another opportunity on Monday afternoon against the Blazers.

It was in that next game that Satoransky had a personal breakthrough. The Czech-native posted his first career double-double with 10 points and a career-high 10 rebounds.

"This number really surprised me because I'm not known for grabbing rebounds as a point guard. [Double-double], that surprised me a lot," Satoransky admitted.

[RELATED: 5 must-see moments from Wizards' win over Blazers]

Satoransky shot 4-for-7 from the field, made a three, dished out three assists and had one steal. It was his best game as an NBA player and with that came a pretty good feeling afterwards.

"I got my confidence back," Satoransky said. "I was kind of struggling with that. Obviously, once you are not in the rotation you lose your confidence. You don't want to. I'm glad the last two games have gone well for us. It helped me to feel good again."

Satoransky, 25, said his confidence was built early by making his first three shots and contributing to a few stops on the defensive end. He and the Wizards bench helped maintain a double-digit lead against the Blazers, something they haven't always been able to do this season, and Satoransky was making plays.

"I thought he made some good decisions in the open court. He gives us another live body that we can throw out there," Brooks said.

"I'm definitely well-aware, especially as a [former] backup point guard, that that's a tough position. You can have a lead and if things don't go well then it's always your fault. I've been in that position for over a decade. So my job is to continue to give him confidence. I trust when he's on the floor. He just doesn't get a lot of minutes. We have a really, really good point guard in front of him. But I like what he's doing. I like what he's going in practice."

Satoransky had a great day, but there was one error that stuck with him following the game. In the closing seconds, he reared back for a towering dunk, but got too much rim and saw the ball bounce out. He nearly put a Blazers defender on a poster, but walked away with merely a missed opportunity, one that he wished he had back.

"The guys always talk to me, saying I'm going to dunk in the warmup and at practice, but I'm not doing it in a game. So, I really wanted to make this one but unfortunately I couldn't. I was kind of preparing my steps for that," he said.

Still, a successful day for the Wizards rookie guard.

[RELATED: Oubre shows progress on both ends vs. Blazers]

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Despite struggles at Oregon, Wizards believe Troy Brown can develop into a good shooter at NBA level

Despite struggles at Oregon, Wizards believe Troy Brown can develop into a good shooter at NBA level

The NBA is so perimeter-oriented these days that often the first statistic cited for a player leaving college for the pros is three-point percentage, regardless of the position. Even big men are expected to knock down threes, for if they can't then there is less space on the floor and like Neil deGrasse Tyson, NBA teams love them some space.

Three-point shooting, however, is not a strength for Wizards' first round pick Troy Brown, Jr., at least not yet. In his lone season at Oregon, he shot just 29.1 percent from long range. Brown can play multiple positions, from point guard to small forward, and shooting is important to be successful at all of them.

Brown and the Wizards, though, are not concerned about his potential to develop an outside shot in the long-term. Brown addressed the issue after his pre-draft workout with the Wizards earlier this month and cited a very specific reason not to worry.

"I don’t think it was my mechanics. I think it was my shot selection this year," he said. "Some of the shots I was taking weren’t very good. It’s about repetition, getting in the gym and putting up shots. I feel like I’ve been doing a good job showcasing that and I feel like a lot of teams are impressed with my shooting."

Brown knocked down plenty of shots in his workout with the Wizards. That helped convince them to select him at No. 15, as they see a guy with potential to become at least a serviceable shooter from long range.

“We’re very confident that we can improve it," head coach Scott Brooks said. "From what I understand, he’s very coachable and he wants to get better. That’s a big part of the step in developing a young player."

Team president Ernie Grunfeld seemed to agree with Brown's personal assessment, that it's not a problem with his mechanics per se. Surely they will tinker with his shot once he gets in their development system. But they don't see the need for a dramatic overhaul.

"He's got a nice stroke," Grunfeld said. "Obviously, when you're a freshman coming up to another level there are different things you have to work on, and we have a really good player development staff and we're going to get him to work right away."

Players of Brown's ilk developing an outside shot at the NBA level is more common than many may think. Just because someone isn't a good shooter in one college season, doesn't mean they will never be able to develop the skill once they mature as a man and a basketball player.

Though Brown's scoring repertoire may seem limited, plenty of players have gone from rags to riches offensively at the professional level. Brown may have to begin his NBA career helping in other ways, like on the defensive end, before his scoring abilities round into form.

Minnesota Timberwolves All-Star Jimmy Butler could be seen as a best-case scenario example. He made only 36 threes in three years in college and shot just 35.3 percent as a junior. When he was Brown's age, as a freshman he averaged only 5.6 points, and as an NBA rookie he shot just 18.2 percent from three.

Through years of hard work, Butler turned himself into a 20-point scorer with a respectable outside shot, including a career-beset 37.8 percent from three in the 2014-15 season. Some guys take more time than others. At only 18 years old, Brown has plenty of time to figure it out.

MORE 2018 NBA DRAFT COVERAGE:

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How drawing up a play in the interview process helped sell the Wizards on Troy Brown

How drawing up a play in the interview process helped sell the Wizards on Troy Brown

While meeting with Oregon's Troy Brown during the pre-draft interview process, evaluators from the Washington Wizards issued him an on-the-spot challenge. Head coach Scott Brooks pulled out a dry-erase clipboard and a pen. He wanted to see Brown draw up a play.

This is a test Brooks has administered before to other players. Some have failed miserably.

"It sounds easy to throw a board at somebody in front of a big group and say 'okay draw a play' and I have seen many plays drawn, and I have seen it where there are not five players on the floor," Brooks said.

That wasn't the case with Brown. He didn't just draw up one play, he drew up several. One in particular came to mind when asked by reporters on Thursday night soon after the Wizards took him 15th overall in the first round of the NBA Draft.

“I think it was a situation where we were down by two or something like that," he said. "It was like a back screen into a slip, and then the fade three and they gave you a lot of various options to cause mismatches on the court for a last minute shot to either go ahead, or even attack the basket for a layup to go into overtime.”

NBC Sports Washington analyst Cory Alexander, a veteran of seven NBA seasons, demonstrated what Brown's play looked like on a whiteboard:

The Xs and Os of basketball flow effortlessly for Brown and Wizards' brass couldn't help but be impressed.

"He really understands the game. I think for a kid that is 18 years old, that is rare but he just has a good feel," Brooks said. 

"We were impressed with his character and the type of person he is and his basketball knowledge," team president Ernie Grunfeld said. "Obviously, like any young player, he has a lot of work to do but he has a lot of the intangibles that I think you need in today's game."

Smarts are a big part of what makes Brown a good basketball player. He isn't a particularly explosive athlete, with a modest 33-inch max vertical leap, but he boasts a 6-foot-10 wingspan and solid agility. Being in the right place at the right time and knowing how to operate an offense helps him make the most of his natural abilities.

Passing is where his basketball IQ comes in handy. Brown is unusually good at distributing for a 6-foot-7 small forward. He averaged 3.2 assists as a freshman at Oregon and nine times had five assists or more in a game.

He can pass like a point guard and the Wizards are excited to implement that skill into their offense.

"Passing is contagious. We’ve been pretty good the last two years and with talking about that how we even want to take another step," Brooks said. "He has the ability to make a lot of quick plays and his ball handling is pretty good for a guy his size. That is one thing I was impressed in his workout last week or when we had him. He is able to take the contact and use his strong frame to get inside the key and make plays.”

MORE 2018 NBA DRAFT COVERAGE:

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