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Wizards pass-first guard Tomas Satoransky gets his shot at defining his role in free agency

Wizards pass-first guard Tomas Satoransky gets his shot at defining his role in free agency

WASHINGTON -- The future is unclear for Tomas Satoransky.

There is one thing the Czech native knows for sure about his position entering restricted free agency for the first time.

“I’m a point guard. I’m definitely a point guard. I will never be agreeing with someone that tells me otherwise,” Satoransky said. “I know how I feel here.”

The man who played point guard more than any other Wizard this season spoke with NBC Sports Washington Tuesday shortly after conducting his exit interview with the local media. The group chat included Satoransky recapping the Wizards’ frustrating season, finding positives and early thoughts entering free agency after setting career-highs in points (8.9), assists (5.0) and minutes (27.1) per game.

The big picture gossip surrounding Satoransky’s circumstances, including a multi-year contract extension, epitomizes the Wizards’ challenges this off-season.

John Wall’s season-ending heel surgery in January afforded the 6-foot-7 Satoransky the opportunity for a larger role than the expected backup point guard job he’s held the last two seasons.

The scenario, including the lack of another proven “one” on the roster pushed head coach Scott Brooks into providing Satoransky with steady minutes.

“I'm finding him minutes. I don't care who [it affects], I'm finding him minutes,” Brooks said after Satoransky keyed Washington’s Nov. 20 comeback win over the Clippers.

That hasn’t always been the case.

Since Washington’s 2012 second-round selection arrived stateside in 2016, the Wizards deployed several others as Wall’s backup. Twice the team traded second-round picks for a point guard (Trey Burke, Tim Frazier) with Satoransky on the roster. They added free agent Brandon Jennings shortly after the 2017 trade deadline and Ty Lawson hours ahead of the 2018 playoffs.

In most instances, Satoransky appeared to be the best option on the roster or at least the one with the greater potential. Some voices in and around the team are not convinced “Sato” is aggressive enough for full-time lead guard duties especially with creating his own offense.

Brooks fell into the camp at times. He may still.

During a recent interview with NBC Sports Washington, Brooks was asked about the future for rookie Troy Brown Jr., a skilled 6-foot-7 player with the ability to play several positions.

“I think he’s going to have to be a utility basketball player kind of like what Tomas does,” Brooks said. “Tomas does a lot of good things on all different spots on the floor. I think Tomas is that type of player.”

Satoransky, 27, told NBC Sports Washington he recognizes the value in versatility. He’s also in a situation to take a stand on his position.

“I think these three years helped me to adjust how to play shooting guard, the 2-3 position, so that’s OK because it gives you some more versatility,” Satoransky told NBC Sports Washington, ”but I’m a point guard.”

Some league voices covet Satoransky’s efficiency, size and high energy. He will generate interest this summer, even though it seems unlikely another team would build around him as their starting point guard.

Midway through the season league sources gauged a potential free agent market between $7-10 million per year. Projections likely changed a little after he averaged 10.7 points, 6.2 assists, 4.3 rebounds and 32 minutes in 54 starts while shooting 40 percent on 3-pointers.

“We had Tomas step up in a big way,” Wall said Tuesday.

Washington, now in the hunt for a new general manager after the recent firing of Ernie Grunfeld, checked in with Satoransky’s camp around mid-season to express their respect and interest in a long-term solution.

Not surprisingly, no deal was struck. The Wizards were in crisis mode often during the season and Satoransky presumably was in no rush to re-sign. Even though Washington maintains the right to match any offer sheet he receives, Satoransky's financial position improves with additional suitors.

While the two sides remain focused on a solution, the Wizards' scenario offers near and long-term considerations. 

Washington only has five players under contract for next season including Wall, who underwent surgery on his ruptured left Achilles in February. It might serve the organization best to sign players with its limited salary cap space to short-term deals until Wall recovers. That might not sit with a player having his first shot a lucrative contract.

However, Wall might not return until February if at all next season. In the interim, someone handles starting point guard duties. The obvious candidate is Satoransky, who started 84 games the last two seasons with Wall sidelined.

The Wizards could use their first-round pick in the 2019 NBA Draft for backcourt help. Washington finished the season with the sixth-best draft lottery odds.

Yet whenever Wall returns, he reclaims the starting gig. Others fill in the gaps. Such a scenario could have Satoransky returning to a nomadic role.

“Obviously, a lot of Wizards fans and people around the Wizards know what my mentality is,” Satoransky told NBC Sports Washington. “They’re always (saying) you have to be more aggressive. I always feel like I have to play on the court to get my teammates better, put my teammates in the best position. It was just the way I was taught to play basketball.”

The reporter wondered aloud if he were perhaps over-thinking Satoransky’s positional situation.

“I don’t know if it’s over-thinking,” Satoransky responded, “but I’m definitely thinking about it right now. Obviously when you’re about to sign a big contract or terms of years, a longer contract, you obviously have to see all the [angles].”

The angle includes Washington retooling after a trying campaign. Satoransky, a popular teammate known for his positivity, sought the silver lining in the trying 32-50 season.

“Even if it was (a) bad season, you were put in a situation that they teach you how to handle them,” Satoransky said Tuesday. “I think we also had good times on the court." 

Great times came away from the game. His wife, Anna, gave birth in February to their heir infant daughter, Sofia. When it comes to finding a home for their family, Washington has pole position there.

“I feel really comfortable here and my family feels comfortable here,” Satoransky said. “I love the city, I love the fan base. … But, there’s also the basketball situation. Have to figure it out.”

Either way, the pass-first point guard is in position to take a shot at securing his basketball future. 

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WATCH: Rui Hachimura throws down a vicious dunk and lets the Heat know it

WATCH: Rui Hachimura throws down a vicious dunk and lets the Heat know it

Rui Hachimura is one of the more soft-spoken players on the Wizards, but you wouldn't be able to collect that from his highlight dunk Friday night in Miami. 

Early in the second quarter while the Wizards were riding the momentum from their win over Philadelphia the night before, Hachimura threw down a loud one-handed slam to give them a 12-point lead. 

Then he let out a scream to let the entire arena know what they just witnessed. 

Hachimura has struggled most of the year with finishing through contact inside. Over the last two weeks, he's had the two best games of his career against the Clippers (30 points) and Sixers (27) due in large part to the rookie playing with more physicality offensively. 

The Wizards have to like what they've seen out of Hachimura already this season, and these kinds of incremental growths are all you can really ask for from a first-round pick. 

Hachimura seemed to hit a wall two weeks ago, but he adjusted tried playing with more physicality and it's paying off for him. 

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Jimmy Butler dominates as Wizards' valiant effort in Miami falls short

Jimmy Butler dominates as Wizards' valiant effort in Miami falls short

It would've been easy for the Wizards to rest on the excitement of Thursday night's win over the Sixers and phone it in against the Heat before a Friday night in Miami. 

But they didn't, and while they didn't come up with the win, the Wizards showed resolve and grit against one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference. 

Here are the top takeaways from the 112-103 loss. 

Wizards forced to use their depth

Coming into the game the Wizards were already down CJ Miles, Jordan McRae and Thomas Bryant with long-term injuries, but then Ian Mahinmi was scratched so he didn't have to play a back-to-back and Isaiah Thomas was ruled out with the same calf injury that kept him on the sidelines against Philly. 

So Scott Brooks reached deep down his bench and deployed some lineup combinations he's rarely had to go with this year. Moe Wagner and Ish Smith got the start alongside Bradley Beal Isaac Bonga and Rui Hachimura while Davis Bertans, Troy Brown and Chris Chiozza were his top reserves. 

At one point, the Wizards fielding a lineup of Chiozza-Brown-Bertans-Bonga-Schofield. Per Cleaning the Glass, those five players have yet to share the court together this season. 

But the Wizards played well. They weren't flat on the second night of a back-to-back, which many would have expected coming off such a great win at home the night before, and they matched the intensity of a consistently hard-playing Heat team for most of the game. 

That's a sign of good culture, which is something the franchise has prioritized in a rebuilding year. I'd be excited to see how they handle the Clippers at home after getting their doors blown off in LA not too long ago. 

Bertans' trade value keeps growing

Davis Bertans showed out on the big stage against the Sixers Thursday and continued his hot streak from deep in Miami. He finished with 19 points, going 5-13 from three, and it's clear defenses are insanely worried about him coming off screens. 

With an expiring $7 million deal, Bertans is a prime trade target for contenders who need bench scoring and floor spacing. 

Before the year it would have been blasphemous for the Wizards to get a first-round pick for Bertans, but now? I'd be surprised if they don't get at least one for him if they wish to deal him. 

An elite uniform night

It's "City Edition" season in the NBA and the Wizards and Heat brought it Friday night. 

The Wizards went with the "Stars and Stripes" for the second night in a row, while the Heat sported another iteration of their famous "Miami Vice" jerseys. 

I move for both uniform combinations to be made permanent additions for years to come. 

Rui Hachimura vs Herro and Nunn

This game featured three of the best rookies the game has had to offer in Rui Hachimura, Tyler Herro and Kendrick Nunn. Herro turned in the best game by a healthy margin with 22 points, but Hachimura proved he's at a similar level as those two standouts. 

The ninth overall pick turned in another solid line with 14 points, six rebounds and a loud dunk

Hachimura seemed to hit a wall two weeks ago but is now back to showing key improvements in every game. 

The Wizards have to be thrilled with what they've seen so far out of the rookie and it's exciting to think about his upside on both ends of the floor running alongside Beal and John Wall. 

No answers for Bam Adebayo

Bam Adebayo may be one of the most versatile centers in NBA history. 

He has unreal foot speed and instincts on defense that allows him to guard just about everyone on the floor, and his ball-handling on offense is unprecedented for such a young big man. 

On Friday, the Wizards' shaky paint defense had next to no answers for Adebayo, who ended up with 24 points and 13 rebounds on 10-16 shooting. 

The good news for the Wizards is there aren't many players like Adebayo in the league today, but at some point, they're going to have to figure out how to defend the paint. 

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