Wizards

Wizards

Back in his Euroleague Days, when Tomas Satoransky played for FC Barcelona Lassa in Spain, his basketball team shared facilities and branding with the FC Barcelona soccer team. At the time, FC Barcelona had two of the most prolific soccer stars in the world, Lionel Messi and Neymar.

When Satoransky would arrive at the arena, often the players' entrance would be surrounded by adoring fans, waiting to catch a glimpse of Messi, Neymar or one of their teammates. Satoransky can recall audible groans when those fans saw him approaching and realized he was not a soccer player.

Satoransky, now in his third NBA season, is used to operating out of the spotlight. Since he joined the Wizards before the 2016-17 season, he has mostly served as a backup behind a star in his own right, John Wall. Even last season, when Satoransky started for a two-month stretch, it was always as a bridge to Wall's return.

This time around, the starting point guard spot is his for the foreseeable future. Wall is expected to miss the rest of this year with surgery to repair his heel and Achilles tendon set for next week. 

That means, barring a trade, it's Satoransky's job to lose. He should have some help with Chasson Randle, Ron Baker and Troy Brown Jr. behind him, but the Wizards are banking on Satoransky to fill in capably as their starter for more than half of the regular season and possibly beyond.

"He's ready for this," head coach Scott Brooks said. "Tomas is going to get a great opportunity. He's going to be more comfortable as the games go by. We don't have the record that we would like, but I think Tomas is going to excel in it."

 

Satoransky, 27, started 30 games last season. Though the Wizards went a mediocre 15-15, he has been much better as a starter in his career than as a reserve. 

In 44 total starts, Satoransky has averaged 10.0 points, 5.4 assists and 3.9 rebounds while shooting 51.2 percent from the field and 46.9 percent from three. As a bench player, Satoransky has averaged only 3.9 points and has shot 47.8 percent overall and 34.0 percent from the perimeter.

Playing as a starter has some advantages, Satoransky explained to NBC Sports Washington earlier this month. 

"You know when you are starting, you are going to get more run and more opportunities. You're going to have more stretches in the game, so it kind of calms you down," he said. "When you're younger you don't know how to handle that."

The early returns were good for Satoransky on Saturday night in his first start since the news Wall would be lost for the year. Satoransky dropped a season-high 20 points with six assists and four rebounds in a win over the Charlotte Hornets.

Satoransky helped lead a uniquely balanced effort for the Wizards' offense. Eight players saw the floor and each scored at least nine points. Six different players, including all five starters, had at least 10 field goal attempts.

"It's a good feeling obviously, because you know it tells you we are moving the ball," Satoransky said of the scoring distribution.

Last season, when Satoransky was given the first extended chance to start of his career in January when Wall went out with a knee injury, the Wizards found some early success. They won their first five games and 10 of their first 13. Satoransky helped them beat good teams like the Thunder and Raptors.

"It's going to be a tough adjustment, but we have been in that situation," he said. "Everybody has got to step up."

Satoransky and the Wizards hope for a similar, but more sustainable trajectory this time. That won't be easy with other starters also injured like Dwight Howard, who will be out several more months following back surgery, and Otto Porter Jr. (knee) and Markieff Morris (neck) who were recently sidelined.

But if Satoransky can help the Wizards stay afloat or even thrive, he has plenty to gain. Satoransky is due to hit free agency this upcoming summer and could improve his stock significantly in these next few months.

The Wizards can make him a restricted free agent if they choose. If things went really well, they could also technically sign him to an extension before then, as he is not tied to the contract scale first round picks are on their rookie deals.

All of that is for further down the road. In the meantime, the Wizards will be counting on Satoransky to try to save their season. He seems ready for the challenge.

 

MORE WIZARDS NEWS: