WASHINGTON — It’s always a guessing game when it comes to predicting a rookie’s immediate impact in his first NBA season, but it’s doubly so when it comes to projecting an international player’s ability.
It’s much easier to scout a player in the ACC or Big Ten than it is to scout a player who has thrived overseas or in a small college; perhaps the most effective scouting tool is evaluating the level of competition.
Tomas Satoransky is not only an international prospect who has yet to suit up for a game in the U.S., but he wasn’t a dominant player for Barcelona last season. He played 24.1 minutes per game, averaging 10.1 points (.550 from the field, .414 from beyond the arc), 4.2 assists, 3.0 rebounds and 1.0 steals per game. That’s a respectable line, but it’s not indicative of a generational talent.
For comparison, former Wizard Jan Vesely played 27.4 minutes per game for Istanbul last season, averaging 12.0 points, 1.6 assists, 6.8 rebounds and 0.8 steals per game.
Satoransky, who turns 25 just a few days after the start of the regular season, measures 6-foot-7, 210 pounds. He is expected to play some combination of point guard, shooting guard and small forward off the bench, and he could compete with Trey Burke for the primary backup job to John Wall, who is recovering from offseason knee surgery and could miss time to start the season.
With that said, here’s what some of his new teammates thought of him at Wizards Media Day last Monday, just before the start of training camp.
“He’s a young, talented player. He does a great job running the pick-and-roll. He shoots the ball a lot better than what people probably are going to expect out of him. Whenever I’m working out, I basically try to invite him and just try to get him used to the NBA game. I know it’s going to be a lot different with the speed and physicality of the game, but I’m here for him. When I came in, I didn’t really have nobody there.
“But me, going into my seventh year, it’s an opportunity for me to teach him and give him the tricks and trades of the rules, of how to play the point guard game and figure out things. But I think he’s going to be fine. He has the work ethic, and he’s a very great listener.”
“Tomas is a 6-7 point guard, who can handle the ball, good defender and is a freak athlete.”
“He’s a bright guy. I know everything about him. … I’m excited to have him here, I’m excited to have another white guy on the team, I’m excited to have an Eastern European guy on my team.”
“He’s a bright guy, he doesn’t need a lot of guidance. He’s here every day two hours before practice, he knows what he’s doing. He’s going to have a nice battle with Trey Burke for the backup job.”
Per Andrew Sharp of SI: “He’ll be a tremendous addition. Point guard with that kind of size is just not normal to find. He’s got incredible basketball IQ, great passer. Obviously, he needs a year or two to develop. But he’s an international guy who’s going to bring a lot of different things to the table in the locker room. That’s what you need sometimes.”
“Tomas can play, man. He’s an athletic guard, he can shoot the ball. We definitely feel like he’s a versatile guy who can help us on both ends of the court.”
And here’s what Satoransky had to say about himself and his fit, both in the NBA and with the Wizards:
“I’ve been always able to play multiple positions, I always tried to be a complete player. I’ve never been specialized, like a scorer or anything, I’ve always tried to be a complete player. Hopefully I can continue with that here, on this level.”
“I can see how athletic the players are here, how strong they are, how physical they are. So I’ll have to find another skillset which I will be good for, but I think my athleticism is just good. I think players already can see that I am athletic. But it will be different here, obviously, the game is much faster and much more athletic, so it’s also about if I can adjust to the game and being able to find out other things I can help [with].”
There’s no question Satoransky’s athleticism will translate, as the above video shows. Not many NBA players can throw down the kind of dunks he did in Richmond, and even Wall, a former dunk champion himself, was impressed.
As for how well he’ll adjust to the physical American game, that’s anybody’s guess. As far as the numbers go, he’s roughly the same build as Kelly Oubre, who is listed at 6-foot-7, 205 pounds. Otto Porter is listed at 6-foot-8, 198 pounds, while Bradley Beal is listed at 6-foot-5, 207 pounds. So Satoransky has enough weight on his frame for the job — how much of that is muscle, and whether he knows how to throw it around, is another question.
The Wizards could use a multi-talented player in the backcourt.
Burke and Marcus Thornton are both volume shooters, and neither is especially strong on defense. Oubre has the potential to be an all-around player, but he’s still raw and needs to develop.
Like Oubre, Satoransky is, of course, raw. Both players are exceptional athletes, and both players have questionable jump shots that need work but not a complete overhaul. But neither player has proven to be a valuable NBA player yet, and if Oubre doesn’t take a significant step forward this season, the Wizards will need Satoransky to be ready earlier than anticipated.
If nothing else, considering the lack of playmakers Washington has, Satoransky needs to be assertive and active. If he can do that, he can earn a decent share of minutes early and expedite his development.