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With John Wall out for the season, focus shifts to Tomas Satoransky

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USA Today Sports

With John Wall out for the season, focus shifts to Tomas Satoransky

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.

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The complete list of players who have suited up for the Wizards in the 2018-19 season

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The complete list of players who have suited up for the Wizards in the 2018-19 season

As Chase Hughes writes, it's been quite a year for the Wizards' roster due to injuries and trades. How many of these names can you list without checking?

Here's the complete list of players who have suited up for the Wizards this season:

John Wall
Bradley Beal
Otto Porter Jr.
Markieff Morris
Dwight Howard
Kelly Oubre Jr.
Austin Rivers
Ian Mahinmi
Jeff Green
Tomas Satoransky
Chasson Randle
Jordan McRae
Devin Robinson
Troy Brown Jr.
Thomas Bryant
John Jenkins
Wesley Johnson
Jabari Parker
Bobby Portis
Sam Dekker
Ron Baker
Gary Payton II
Okaro White
Jason Smith
Trevor Ariza

Read more here.

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A franchise-record 25 players for the Wizards has made for an interesting year for Scott Brooks

A franchise-record 25 players for the Wizards has made for an interesting year for Scott Brooks

If it seems like the 2018-19 Washington Wizards have had a lot of different players play for them this season, well, that's because they have. This year they have set a franchise record by suiting up 25 different guys.

For some context, they had only 15 players appear in games all of last season. Eleven years ago, in the 2007-08 season, they had only 13 different guys suit up, or close to half as many as they have had this year.

The Wizards' 25 different players this season are not all that far off from the NBA record. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the 2015-16 Memphis Grizzlies own that distinction with 28. That's a lot of different jerseys.

There are also two teams who have used more players than the Wizards this season alone. The Cavs have had 27 and the Grizzlies have had 26. Apparently this is Memphis' thing.

The reasons why the Wizards have reached this point are numerous. For one, they have made five trades since training camp began. If it weren't for the Feb. 7 trade deadline, they may have made more.

They, of course, have also dealt with major injuries, ones that greatly affected their plans. They lost John Wall for the season due to a torn Achilles and Dwight Howard has only played nine games so far due to a back injury.

Also, the advent and proximity of their new G-League affiliate, the Capital City Go-Go, has allowed them to call up players from the minors easier than before. And two-way contracts have added two players to their roster that weren't there in years past.

There were also a few months there when the Wizards did a dance with their final roster spots to save money under the pressure of the luxury tax. They signed a series of 10-day contracts and other players for weeks at a time. That brought some of the more random names to Washington like Ron Baker, Okaro White, Gary Payton II and John Jenkins.

The Wizards' front office has been busy flipping the roster upside down this season and the coaching staff has been left to sort it out. The most players head coach Scott Brooks has had on a team before is 21, back when he was with the Thunder, so this year has been a new challenge for him.

"What? Are you serious? I didn't know that," Brooks told NBC Sports Washington when informed of the franchise record. "No wonder I haven't slept this year."

The Wizards have a protocol for when new players are added. They are each given an iPad that is loaded with the playbook and film breakdowns. Coaches will meet with the players to give them a lay of the land. 

Brooks will introduce himself to all, but usually meets more extensively with those who are going to play major minutes. For those on the fringe of the roster, sometimes that introductory meeting will be handled by Dave Adkins, their director of player development.

When a player is on a 10-day contract, for instance, the transition is relatively easy. Only so much attention will be paid because they in most circumstances will rarely play

For players expected to log heavy minutes, the entire coaching staff will meet to discuss how to incorporate them. After the trades to bring in Bobby Portis, Jabari Parker and Wesley Johnson on Feb. 6, Wizards coaches met the following day for over 30 minutes to brainstorm.

On Feb. 8, as Portis, Parker and Johnson were set to debut against the Cavaliers, the Wizards modified their morning shootaround to add extensive walk-throughs of their playbook. They held seminars on both ends of the court; one for offense and one for defense. One Wizards assistant said it was basically like the first day of training camp, at that point 54 games into their season.

"Going into this year, none of us could prepare for what has happened," Brooks said. "We wouldn't want to be in this position, but we are."

"Losing one of the best players in the league [in Wall], losing one of the key components to shoring up our weaknesses in Dwight. Then, John's second surgery has kind of made this a very unique year in that regard. With all the new players, it has definitely been challenging for me and my coaching staff and the guys that have been here."

Through the ups and the downs of the season, many more of the latter, Brooks has found some joy in the process. The players they have brought in on 10-day contracts and through call-ups from the G-League have taken him back to his own days as a player, when he battled as an undrafted guy to last 10 years in the NBA.

Chasson Randle, in particular, has charted a relatable path. The point guard began the season on a non-guaranteed contract, but in January had his deal guaranteed for the rest of the season.

That was an important step in his NBA career and Brooks remembers what that was like for him.

"That is one of the most enjoyable moments in coaching for me this year, having those guys, because I know that I was in that position, trying to battle and trying to achieve a lofty, lifelong dream," Brooks said. 

"We've had that with Chase. He's made himself into a pretty good player in this league. Hopefully, he's able to stick for a long, long time because he deserves it. He's as professional as anybody I've ever been around with his approach, his enthusiasm with an role that you will give him. To see that is awesome."

So, he knows Randle's name. Could Brooks name all 25 of the Wizards' players this season?

"No. It would take me a while. Sometimes I have trouble naming the 15 we have at the moment," he said. "I didn't realize 25, wow."

Click here for the entire list of players who have suited up for the Wizards this season.

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