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Tomas Satoransky makes his case for more minutes during recent stretch

Detroit Pistons  v Washington Wizards Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

Since Tomas Satoransky arrived in Washington last season, it’s been difficult to figure out what he is, mainly because his opportunities have been limited. The second-year pro barely sees the floor when John Wall is healthy. But with John Wall sidelined for two weeks due to knee issues, the young cat has made the most out of his opportunity.

Satoransky’s increased confidence has been on full display. Against the Philadelphia 76ers, he had 12 points with eight assists and two rebounds while shooting 4-of-7 from the field and knocking down all four of his free throw attempts. Of his seven shot attempts, five came from the lane or at the elbow. His 6-foot-7 frame allows him to take advantage of his opponents, especially guards, with his size and strength.

In a 109-91 victory over the Detroit Pistons Friday night, Satoransky didn’t take his foot off the gas, producing a career-high 17 points on 5-of-6 shooting as the floor general for a free-flowing second-unit. He sparked a bench that outplayed the Pistons reserves in the second quarter, building a 38-31 lead before Washington’s starters slowly lost it before halftime.

He scored four of the Wizards’ eight points in the last three minutes of the third quarter to extend the lead from 10 to 14 points. Even in the fourth quarter when he straddled that line between point and shooting guard, he kept the ball moving while pushing the pace to keep the offense fluid. He stayed aggressive by looking for his shot and it was falling. He chipped in 11 points in the second half to go with two assists and his performance kept the Pistons from making a late charge.

“I won’t be lying, it felt great,” Satoransky said after the game. “I think for the first time I really played with a lot of confidence tonight. I think I had some options to score easy buckets — everything felt easier, obviously, to finally be able to score more than one three-pointer. I’ve been working on that very hard.”

“Tomas is a hard worker,” Coach Scott Brooks said after Friday’s game. He’s put the time in. He’s taken advantage of the opportunities he’s been given since John has been out; hopefully that continues. Sometimes it happens and the player is not prepared. […] The last couple games with Tomas you knew that he was going to be prepared.”

In his last four games without Wall, Satoransky has scored 40 total points, dished 24 assists, shot 14-of-22 from the field, grabbed 14 rebounds and committed zero turnovers in 89 total minutes of play. He’s been +52 during that stretch, running the offense competently and limiting his mistakes.

Satoransky looks more confident and aggressive on the offensive end- two attributes that were often lacking in his rookie year. Brooks has taken notice. He gave Satoransky minutes than Frazier in the last two games and ran him with the starters at the end of the first half in Minnesota before playing the entire fourth quarter in the Wizards’ comeback victory over Philadelphia. If Washington wants to keep winning without Wall, Brooks knows Satoransky must maintain that confidence and aggression.

“I liked the game tonight. I liked Tomas and Tim’s ability to lead and play on both ends of the court,” Brooks said after Friday’s game. “But it’s definitely going to be tough on the road.”

It is too early to tell if Satoransky’s minutes advantage over Frazier in recent games signals a permanent rotation change, but Brooks seems to be just fine with having options. “The thing that I’ve told the team and our staff is that one: we’re not a better team without John, but we can be a better team when John comes back,” he said. “When John comes back hopefully guys are confident that we can do a lot of good things, and then I have to make the tough decisions who plays and who doesn’t play, maybe they both play, maybe they match up game to game, but Tomas definitely is showing that he’s a good player in this league.”

When Wall returns, recent history suggests Brooks might send Satoransky back to the end of the bench, but it’s clear Satoransky is making a strong case for increased playing time.