Why John Wall’s Season-Ending Injury Was the Worst Thing That Could Have Happened to the Wizards
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The Washington Wizards were already in a tough spot to close out 2018. They were not close at all to matching pre-season expectations and finished the year with a very disappointing 14 – 23 record. To make matters worse, John Wall, their All-Star point guard, was recently shut down; a season-ending left heel surgery was the reason for the team’s latest setback.
Wall was averaging 20.7 points, 8.7 assists, and 1.5 steals on 44.4% field goal shooting before being ruled out for the rest of the 2018-19 campaign. Mind you, him being gone and not able to produce these numbers anymore is not even the biggest issue here.
The trade that brought Trevor Ariza over to Washington just two weeks ago left the Wizards with no other serviceable point guards besides Wall and Tomas Satoransky, as Austin Rivers was sent packing to the Sonoran Desert and later waived by the Phoenix Suns. Rivers got his, anyway, as he is now playing heavy minutes in Houston with both Chris Paul and Eric Gordon struggling with some minor injuries.
Is Chasson Randle, who was playing for the Wizards’ G-League team just a month and a half ago, genuinely a backup point guard for a playoff team? Are the Wizards even a playoff team?
The lack of options will force head coach Scott Brooks to play Satoransky for lofty stretches. He has already, as the Czech point guard logged 39 and 33 minutes over the two games he has started in Wall’s spot. He scored a combined 29 points, eight rebounds, nine assists, and just three turnovers on 10-for-22 shooting from the field and 5-for-11 from deep. At 6-foot-7, he will give problems to any opposing guard.
It may not seem like there is a problem anywhere here, as further development for a third-year player is always more than welcome by any team. But it turns out Satoransky is set to be a restricted free agent this offseason, and with the stats he has already put in Wall’s absence – Sato’s brightness with Wall out of the rotation dates back to last season – he will certainly have enough suitors willing to pay for his services as soon as he is available.
"He's ready for this," coach Brooks said, according to NBC Sports’ Chase Hughes. "Tomas is going to get a great opportunity. He's going to be more comfortable as the games go by. We don't have the record that we would like, but I think Tomas is going to excel in it."
It may have been in the Wizards’ best interest that Satoransky remained firmly behind Wall all season long, giving him less of an opportunity to get noticed by opposing teams and hopefully have them bid low on Satoransky come restricted free agency time.
The Wizards already have over $111 million guaranteed in salaries for the 2019-20 season and still need to re-sign role players; the last thing Ernie Grunfeld and the rest of the Wizards front office want is rivals offering yearly double-digit million dollar contracts to a key backup player they cannot afford to lose.
On the other hand, Satoransky knows it is gut-check time. He knows this is a time to show everything he has in his arsenal because he might be earning some very juicy paychecks in the near future.
"You know when you are starting, you are going to get more run and more opportunities. You're going to have more stretches in the game, so it kind of calms you down," Satoransky said. "When you're younger you don't know how to handle that."
He is still young at 27 years of age, but he is as hungry for bigger opportunities as a rookie after spending his early days as a professional basketball player in Europe. "It's going to be a tough adjustment, but we have been in that situation," Sato added. "Everybody has got to step up."
He could very well force the Wizards to make their best offer and discuss a potential contract extension before he becomes a restricted free agent. If he does not believe the Wizards are offering enough, something that will most likely happen, Washington will find themselves with their hands tied behind their backs and make him a RFA on a $3.9 million qualifying offer.
Once he is officially in the market, Satoransky will pretty much be an unrestricted free agent, as there is only so much money the Wizards can offer with Wall, Bradley Beal, and Otto Porter Jr. earning a combined $92.5 million in 2020. They will be eating up almost the full salary cap by themselves.
In the 44 games Satoransky has started throughout his career, he has averaged 10 points, 5.4 assists, and 3.9 rebounds on 51.2% shooting from the field and 46.9% from three. It is safe to assume he will do well as a starter for the rest of the season to then give the Wizards even more problems than they already had.
All statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference.
You can follow Jorge on Twitter @CantuNBA