clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

What we learned from Tomas Satoransky's play at EuroBasket 2015

New, comments

Tomas Satoransky had himself a great run at the 2015 EuroBasket, averaging close to 14 points, 8 assists, and 5 rebounds for the Czech Republic. Here's what we can take from his performance.

RIGA, LATVIA - SEPTEMBER 10: Tomas Satoransky of Czech Republic reacts during the FIBA EuroBasket 2015 Group D basketball match between Czech Republic and Lithuania at Arena Riga on September 10, 2015 in Riga, Latvia.
RIGA, LATVIA - SEPTEMBER 10: Tomas Satoransky of Czech Republic reacts during the FIBA EuroBasket 2015 Group D basketball match between Czech Republic and Lithuania at Arena Riga on September 10, 2015 in Riga, Latvia.
Photo by Joosep Martinson/Getty Images

The Wizards have been in a frustrating wait-and-see mode with Tomas Satoransky for quite some time now. If you'll recall, the front office made a "strong push" to bring him over in 2014, but discussions fell through once Satoransky's reps pushed for the mid-level exception, which was worth $5.5 million.

To put it in perspective, the Minnesota Timberwolves just signed Nemanja Bjelica to a three-year deal worth $11.7 million, or nearly $4 million per year, but he's also the reigning Euroleague MVP. Satoransky certainly wasn't that two years ago, and you can't blame the team for opting to spend their money elsewhere.

But now, it appears Satoransky's time in Europe appears to be reaching it's conclusion. His two-year deal with Barcelona, signed back in 2014, conveniently ends just as Washington enters the all-important 2016 offseason with gobs of money to spend and a backup point guard position to fill.

You have to give the Wizards credit for keeping the lines of communication open when things got tough. They brought him over for Summer League the year he was drafted, made multiple scouting trips, and have seemingly continued to operate under the premise that he will make his way over soon. All of which is to say, they know the player they're getting in 2016, and based on his performance at EuroBasket, could be worth the wait.

While it's nice to gain some control over the situation, there's still plenty left to be determined about how he'll fit in Washington. Is he fit to run an NBA offense, or is he an off-guard masquerading as a point guard for both Barcelona and his Czech national team?

Let's look at the tape.

Offense

From the start of the tournament, it was been clear Satoransky made strides as a lead ball handler, which isn't all that shocking considering how he managed to jump into the rotation at FC Barcelona in his first season, a club that historically doesn't give much leeway to young players.

Part of that is Sato's own doing -- give him credit for taking care of the ball (he sported a team-high 3.35 assist to turnover ratio last season) and picking his spots nicely -- but not much was asked of him within the offense as he was often relegated to setting up the likes of Juan Carlos Navarro, Ante Tomic, and Deshaun Thomas.

However, that's not the case with his Czech national team, as he's the only credible ball handler on the roster. So much of the team's offense is predicated on his ability to pick out openings in the defense following an initial pick and roll with Jan Vesely, and he's proven that he can see a play forming a step ahead of everyone else.

That's a basic play to make -- the Czechs overload the strong-side of the floor, making it easy for Satoransky to pick on the lone help defender on the weak-side -- but it's also the right play, and Satoransky has shown a vast improvement when it comes to being patient and allowing a set to develop.

sato pnr

sato pnr 2

Being able to read the next line of defense goes a long way in determining your success as a point guard in the NBA, and Satoransky is slowly getting there.

He can make most of those reads right now from a standstill position because he's gotten plenty of reps to do so in Barcelona, but you can see he's still a work in progress when it comes to attacking off a live dribble. You'll often see him drop pocket passes to his roll man a beat late and attempt to thread the needle through traffic which will result in turnovers.

He's gotten better at changing speeds, but I'm not quite so sure he knows how to use it consistently to his advantage.

Therein lies his biggest concern: He's projected as a dribble-drive player without the superlative speed or exceptional court vision.

He can finish above the rim effortlessly, but getting there can be a problem. He doesn't have a great first step nor does he have many advanced dribbles in his toolbox. Attacking on a straight line has never been a problem, but put him in isolation, and you see a lot of his flaws manifest itself.

This is why I'm not entirely sold that he can run a second unit. I'd much rather him play on the wing a la Shaun Livingston than say Rodney Stuckey who can hold down the fort and create.

A big reason why is the improvements he's made as a shooter. He's no longer gun shy, averaging nearly four triples per game in EuroBasket, good for a healthy 39 percent, and three triples per 36 minutes for Barcelona, also good for 39 percent.

His shot mechanics look clean for the most part -- he dips the ball to his knees off the catch, squares himself to the basket, and gets good lift. He does have a small hitch at the top of his shot just as he releases and things can get pretty choppy when defenders close in on him, but it's a solid foundation that he can build on. He's already canned enough triples so far -- be it on plays like the one below where he has to space out following the pindown screen or as he fills his lane in transition -- that he won't be a deterrent for Washington's pace-and-space hopes.

But more importantly, having a 6'7" guard who can vacillate between three positions is what makes him so intriguing. He may not be elite at any one thing, but he's proven he can do enough of those things adequately to justify his worth. In this pace-and-space era, you can't ask for much more, and for all the front office talk over seeking "positional versatility" they may already have their guy.

Defense

Satoransky tries hard on defense, like really hard, to the point where he takes himself out of plays. The best compliment you can give him right now is that he's not taking plays off defensively, which in fairness, might say more about how much he's been coached up on this end of the floor than anything else.

But these self-inflicted wounds are a bit worrisome. He gets flipped around easily on ball-screens because he's anticipating where the ball handler is going rather than waiting and reacting.

sato defense

This is partly the reason for their Czech dropping their game against Serbia earlier this week. Milos Teodosic left Satoransky in the dust on a number of plays just like this en route to his 12 point, 14 assist night. Granted, Sato does have the ability to recover and get himself back into the play, but you have to remember the level of competition he's facing. Those blips increase ten-fold against NBA athletes.

But what's even more concerning is his play away from the ball. It's one thing to gamble and play passing lanes, but it's another to do it a pass-away while you're the only defender in the general vicinity of the shooter.

sato off ball d

He has the size and athleticism to hold his own at the next level, but it will take some time for him to be coached up to the point where he can defend multiple positions like he's billed to.

******

We all know to temper excitement over international play, but it's a step in the right direction for Satoransky. He didn't look like the player who had more turnovers (11) than assists (9) back in the 2012 Summer League, which is undoubtedly a step in the right direction.