There are few greater red flags in determining a potentially flawed NBA team than watching your best player score 60 in a loss. Bradley Beal, the Wizards best player, and an impending free agent gave his team a career-high 60 points Wednesday night in Philadelphia only to find himself down by five as the game clock expired. Wizards’ rookie Deni Avdija failed to get in on the 277 combined points scoring party aside from a single make at the free-throw line.
Next up for Washington is a road tilt with the Celtics on Friday night, a matchup that should give Avdija a chance to test his skills on a pair of the league’s elite young forwards in Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. Tatum specifically is an interesting assignment for Avdija in that the young Boston star has essentially become the mold for the modern-day wing, a lengthy athlete with a smooth jumper and a body capable of both operating like an oversized guard offensively while retaining the size to guard multiple positions. This description was practically the scouting report on Avdija entering the draft. In Brown, the Israeli rookie will find an opponent who is less skilled offensively than Tatum, yet more willing to use his physicality and athleticism to create shot opportunities. Both of the Celtics premiere wing players are essential to their nightly scoring output, so for the Wizards to win Avdija will likely need to at some point hold one or both of them in check.
Following the Wizards’ trip to Boston, they return home for a Saturday night game against the Miami Heat. Miami and Washington will both enter the weekend with the same previous opponent, as the Heat are coming off a last-second loss to the Celtics on Wednesday night. Miami is led by potential Avdija assignment Jimmy Butler, a physical veteran likely to make the Israeli pro’s night a rough one. The Heat also start Kelly Olynyk at the second forward spot, a sharpshooter with size who poses little threat inside the perimeter.
The truth is Washington is prioritizing immediate competitiveness no matter how much the team struggles to begin the season. Beal could be gone without a promising playoff run, offseason trade acquisition Russell Westbrook is not someone you trade for at the money he’s owed without the intention of playoff contention, head coach Scott Brooks could be gone after another unsuccessful season. These things all matter for Avdija because he wants to play, he wants to get better, but in the NBA things move quickly, and for the recent draft pick to remain in the starting lineup and receive meaningful minutes he needs to do more offensively. Avdija was a top draft selection, and with such status grants patience in development, yet to remain a contributing member of this season’s rotation he must show more offensively, starting this week against Boston and Miami.
The Wizards face the Celtics Friday at 7:30 p.m. before hosting the Heat at 7 p.m. Saturday.