Since the Wizards drafted Tomas Satoransky in the second round of the 2012 NBA draft much of the conversation has focused on who Satoransky is not. He's not Draymond Green, Jae Crowder, or Khris Middleton -- all accomplished players that the Wizards passed up to take the Czech guard. Fans have also noted where he is not -- the NBA -- and expressed some frustration that it has taken the Wizards so long to realize a return on their investment.
But with the news that Satoransky is likely to suit up for the Wizards in the fall of 2016, it's time to focus on who Satoransky is and what he might be when he dons the red, white, and blue. One can only glean so much from YouTube highlight reels. So I enlisted the insights of ESPN's Fran Fraschilla, one of basketball's most credible experts on FIBA, college basketball, and the NBA Draft. Fraschilla has watched Satoransky play since he was 16, and has seen the Czech guard grow into a key contributor for FC Barcelona of the ACB League.
While Fraschilla doesn't see stardom in Satoransky's future, he was unequivocal in his opinion that the Wizards are getting an NBA-ready contributor. "I definitely see a guy that can be in a playoff team's 8 or 9 man rotation," he told me.
Fraschilla used baseball to put Satoransky's trajectory into context. "If the NBA is the Major Leagues, then high-level American college basketball is double-A baseball. The Euroleague -- and particularly the ACB -- that's AAA," Fraschilla said. "So, he's hitting .290 in AAA. There's a good chance he's going to be a good NBA role player. There are guys that average 16 points a game in the Big 12 or Pac 12 who are not even close to being as ready to play in an NBA game as this kid is."
What's obvious about Satoransky is that he's big for a point guard (6-foot-7), and athletic. A quick YouTube search will yield a host of aggressive drives and authoritative dunks. Fraschilla sees a lot of NBA-ready point guard skills, calling Satoransky an "excellent passer" and citing his size as an asset to look over defenses. Fraschilla seemed supremely confident that Satoransky can acquit himself well in a backup role to John Wall.
Where Fraschilla was less sure was whether Satoransky could be a true combo guard and slide to the two spot when Bradley Beal rests. "I still consider him more of a playmaker and a point guard," Fraschilla said. "He can play off guard in spots, but I don't see that he can just catch and fire from behind NBA line."
Satoransky's shooting has surely improved; he shot an excellent 43.5 percent from three last season for Barcelona, through Fraschilla cautioned that the FIBA t line is a full two feet closer than the NBA. "If he shoots 44 percent from the NBA three point line, then we've got a developing story here."
Fraschilla likes what he sees defensively as well. While Satoranksy may struggle to stay in front of the NBA's elite point men, Fraschilla points out he's in very good company in that regard, and that his length will allow him to space off of quicker guards by a half step. "He's got the size, length and athleticism to be steady and solid defensively versus ones and twos. I don't think that's going to be that big an issue for him. He's certainly going to be more prepared to guard the better two guards in the league than most guys coming out of [NCAA] Division I."
Fraschilla is absolutely effusive about Satoransky's maturity and character. "You're talking about an incredible kid. He's the boy next door. He's just a great guy -- a basketball junkie, gym rat, and great teammate," Fraschilla said. "He's mature -- seasoned in the ACB -- and very, very much a humble, team-oriented type of player." This is especially encouraging given past rumblings that Satoransky may have been reluctant to make the jump to the NBA over concerns about playing time. Fraschilla made specific mention of Barcelona's "wait-your-turn" culture in that respect.
That culture played a big role in Mario Hezonjia's -- Satoransnky's Barca teammate -- decision to leave Spain this past summer for the NBA draft, where he was selected fifth overall by Orlando. Fraschilla thinks that if Satoransky had been eligible for this most recent draft, and available to play this season, he would have been a top-15 pick for sure.
Fraschilla is clearly confident that while Satoransky is not yet a finished product, he is ready for NBA minutes. In contrast to recent first rounder Kelly Oubre, Fraschilla again used a baseball analogy. "Kelly, for example, is the kid from Rockville that throws 97 in high school and the Nationals draft him in the first round, and guess where he's going? He's going to rookie ball. That's where Kelly is in his development. Tomas is not as athletic and doesn't have as much upside, but Randy Wittman can much more easily put him in an NBA game and sleep okay."
Given the reports that Satoransky's arrival next summer is all but assured, it's safe to assume that there is at least a general understanding around contract parameters. The recent NBA deals signed by good Europeans make Fraschilla believe it highly unlikely that Satoransky's contract would impede the Wizards' pursuit of max-level free agents next summer -- including a certain local product the team appears poised to chase.
I've sensed reflexive skepticism by Wizards fans towards Satoransky. There's some unfair guilt by association; Satoransky is longtime friends with countryman Jan Vesely, one of the more spectacular draft busts in recent NBA history. But according to Fraschilla, at least, Satoransky can play. If he continues to improve, he could prove an excellent fit with the Wizards' young core.