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Roundtable: Are the Wizards managing Tomas Satoransky’s development properly?

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NBA: Washington Wizards at Phoenix Suns Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Jake Whitacre: So Scott Brooks said this about Tomas Satoransky this summer:

Head coach Scott Brooks knows Satoransky, 25, is more comfortable at point guard and that he was asked to do some things he hadn't done before as a rookie in the 2016-17 season, challenges that he handled with varied success. But Brooks wants Satoransky, who averaged 12.6 minutes in 57 games as a rookie, to expect more of that in the future.

"Regardless of how you feel as a player that 'I need to play this position,' I think those days are done," Brooks said. "I know he likes that he's been a point guard all his life, but the way we play and the way the NBA is, you need playmakers on the court. Sometimes we all, even myself, we get caught up in his he a one or is he a two? No, they're basketball players."

In a sense, I agree with this thinking, but it's a high-risk/high-reward strategy. Turning Satoransky into a playmaking wing unicorn would be great if he develops, but if he doesn't, the Wizards waste time chasing something that doesn't come together, and waste an opportunity for him to be serviceable at point guard.

I think you could argue this was the same strategy that hurt them with developing Jan Vesely and Chris Singleton. They tried to mold them into the players they weren't equipped to be, and it cost them short and long-term value.

Is it fair to say that perhaps the Wizards are too ambitious with their development tracks or am I crazy?

Tony East: Different head coaches makes these situations hard to compare. Satoransky has not proven to be better at any particular position, so I'm not sure where he belongs. Being 6'7 makes the picture very murky in terms of his position.

Jake Whitacre: True, but there's a bit of carryover with upper management who play an important role in shaping these development programs.

Tony East: For sure. I think we have seen Brooks excel at getting guys to play to their strengths in his one year of coaching so I will trust him for now with Sato, but I am unsure what to think going forward.

Ben Becker: Is there a viable rotation wing in recent memory who can't shoot? The only guys I can think of are defensive specialists like Tony Allen, Roberson, etc? Satoransky ain't that.

Satoransky excelled in Europe as a PG. His best chance of sticking as an NBA player is very likely as a PG. As long as Brooks makes the backup PG minutes a fair and open competition between he and Frazier, I can't complain. Sato should have to win that job. The fact that he's under contract for a year long than Frazier should work in his favor as well. That aspect of things is up to him.

Shoe-horning him into the wing rotation seems ill-advised. It also bears noting that in an age when you can't enough viable wings, the Wizards are overloaded at center and point guard.

Marcus Atkinson Sr.: I disagree with this idea and I see it kind of how you see it. Jake. What makes organizations like the Spurs and the Warriors able to produce players like Jonathan Simmons, Danny Green or even JaVale McGee is because they don't try to expand them to be more than what they are. They take their strengths and put them in roles that best use those strengths. Those teams wouldn't make JaVale McGee a starting center, or make Jonathan Simmons a floor spacing wing. They limit their roles to make it easier for them to master something.

The problem with moving Satoransky is if you move him, then what strength of his are you developing? He's not a good shooter, not particularly confident in his ability to create his own shot, so then what benefit would he have as a wing? If you're going to have him become a defensive specialist maybe I can see the argument, but outside of that, you take away a lot of his strengths when you move his position. If he stayed as a point guard and he could ever become more confident in his playmaking ability then you have a player with the size to take advantage of mismatches and use that as an opportunity to create for others.

It does feel like a repeat of what we have seen before. Surely they had to know with his years playing professionally when he came over, how he would fit. I understand there was a bit of a learning curve, but now it feels like they wasted last year instead of already having a role set out for him that works for him and his skillset.

Quinten Rosborough: I think it’s important to take what Brooks is saying at face value here -- he's not saying that Sato isn't a point guard, he's just saying that it's not something he should worry about right now. He needs to find a way to get on the court, and given the two things he can do at an NBA level (be tall and dunk), asking him to try and run an offense isn't going to help him get any minutes this year.

I agree with Marcus and Jake, the goal here is to put the prospect in a position that maximizes his strengths and doesn't expose his weaknesses which is why I think Brooks is spot on. Asking Sato to run point is like asking Singleton to shoot threes or Vesley to play in the post -- its wayyyy too soon for that conversation.

Super duper best case scenario: Sato develops like Evan Fournier did. He was a tall point who couldn't dribble or shoot when he was drafted, but his defense is what got him on the court. From there he was able to develop into a pretty good shooter and secondary ball handler.

Kevin Broom: I agree with the principle of asking players to do things they’re good at doing. But, there are certain things that guys need to be able to do well if they’re going to be successful, contributing NBA players. If we’re being honest, I think we’d find it difficult to name anything Satoransky does at a good NBA level. I think that’s the conundrum for Brooks and the Wizards. Satoransky has played PG in the past, but his playmaking skills, decision-making, quickness (physically and mentally), and ball handling aren’t good enough for an NBA PG – at least he hasn’t shown it so far. He’s going to be on the roster so Brooks is trying to figure out how to use him. Getting Satoransky to improve his shooting seems more manageable than playmaking, quickness, decision-making, etc.

Ben Becker: I don't see how one would look at Satoransky's pre-NBA career and conclude that asking him to play point is akin to Vesely or Singleton being asked to do things they couldn't do. He's played PG his whole life and Brooks acknowledged as much.

I agree with Brooks that one cannot expect to stay on the court without a varied skillset -- particularly the ability to shoot at a respectable rate. If Satoransky can beat out Frazier for the backup PG spot -- and own that spot next year -- that would be great; the Wizards haven't had the same backup PG for consecutive seasons since Antonio Daniels. If Satoransky can grow his skillset -- particularly improve his shooting -- to the point where he can be a viable 3rd guard that can play with either Wall or Beal (or both in small lineups), that would be spectacular. He's got a long, long way to go to get there though.

Quinten Rosborough: Looking at his pre-NBA career sure, but based on what we've seen thus far, he can't dribble and face the basket at the same time. I'm not saying he won't learn, but why make him do it now?

Jake Whitacre: I guess my thing is, he's going to have to learn how to shoot whether he plays at the point or the wing, so why cut off access to where he knows how to play? I get he has to be put out of his comfort zone a bit to foster growth, but this feels like throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Ben Becker: FWIW, Tim Frazier can't shoot either.

Nick Bilka: Frazier is like a Ramon Sessions level below average shooter whereas Sato falls more in the Michael Carter-Williams/Andre Roberson range.

Tony East: Yeah Frazier had an odd year shooting. 35 percent before the All-Star break from three, then it was 24 percent from ASB to the end. His career percentage ain’t great either. Oh well, far better than Burke/Jennings.

Ben Becker: Wiz got so unlucky with Jennings. Shooting was never his strong suit -- .496 career TS%. But while he was right at that level with the Knicks (.508) his shooting fell off a cliff with the Wizards (.357 TS%). Playoff shooting was closer to career norms, but he was a foul and turnover machine. If Sacramento had gone through with the Darren Collison buyout as was rumored, and he had landed here instead of Jennings, the Wiz would have made the ECF's for sure.

Jake Whitacre: Jennings' numbers with the Knicks are almost disturbingly similar to Frazier's last season (.504 TS%). If Meeks can't give Frazier some breathing room to operate, I worry he could suffer a similar fate.

And I completely agree with Ben. Collison would have been amazing. And who knows, a chance to play in the playoff spotlight may have helped him out in free agent negotiations as well. He did pretty well all things considered though, getting that two year, $20 million deal from Indiana.

Akbar Naqvi: I think Satoransky's best bet is as a backup PG in the same vein as Shawn Livingston. He technically plays "PG" but can play with both Wall & Beal as a pseudo wing and bring something to the table other than shooting. I think his shooting is going to improve, given how well he shot in the Euroleague and how much that tends to carryover into the NBA. However, I agree with Kevin that he hasn't really done anything well at an NBA level at this point in his career. Perhaps more consistent minutes will change that, but who knows.

Indiana Pacers v Washington Wizards

As for Jake's point on Singleton & Vesely, I think those two players would have flopped no matter what. They really weren't particularly good at anything and while they may have exacerbated the flaws by trying to teach them a new position, they might have thought it was a better idea to try to take advantage of the very few things they did well rather than suddenly hoping they become productive.

Jake Whitacre: I think it goes beyond switching positions. Vesely, Singleton, and even Satoransky to some extent drew their value off of their defensive abilities and it feels like the Wizards tried to pivot all of them into ambitious offensive roles that didn't match their capabilities.

Kevin Broom: I don’t think I can support the idea that the Wizards tried to put any of these guys into ambitious offensive roles. All were low usage – in Singleton’s case, extremely low usage. The issue with Vesely and Singleton was that they weren’t much good and they didn’t work at it (at least not to the level that productive NBA players work). They weren’t asked to do much on offense, and they did it badly. We’ll see on Satoransky. His rookie year wasn’t promising, but if he does the work maybe he can become competent.

Jake Whitacre: The usage rates were low, but even within that context I think they were being asked to do too much and I think their high turnover rates reflect that.

Kevin Broom: I think their high turnover rates reflect that they just weren’t very good, not that they were asked to do too much.

Jake Whitacre: Anything is probably too much when you're bad.

Kevin Broom: Maybe. Worth discussion is that Satoransky entered the league as a 25-year old rookie. That’s not old, but he’s already middle aged for the NBA. Among older rookies (24+ years old), he’s below the midpoint. A few others who started worse ended up being productive pros.

It could be that sticking him at PG and seeing if he can figure out how to play might be the best strategy for his development. But, us on the outside don’t have nearly as much information as the coaching staff. It could be he was terrible at PG in practices and scrimmages, and that he couldn’t run the offense against an NBA defense. It could be that asking him to play on the wing is an attempt at limiting his role to something they hope he can do well.

A point I’ve made before: the NBA is a tough league. Satoransky was a successful professional player in high level leagues overseas. He came to the NBA at 25 – a grown man. And he was overwhelmed. Hopefully he can do some catching up this year.