Deni Avdija and the Washington Wizards both trending upwards entering 2023

Jan 2, 2023 | Deni Avdija

The Washington Wizards are amidst a season-high 5-game winning streak, their longest since last season’s infamous 10-3 start that quickly flamed out. Sure, Washington has benefitted from avoiding Devin Booker and Giannis Antetokounmpo, but they have nonetheless played better basketball than the recent dismal 10-game losing streak. Deni Avdija has returned from a two-game absence with a sore lower back and played well in a role off the bench as Daniel Gafford has been inserted into the starting lineup alongside Kristaps Porzingis.

“Maybe my body signaled to me that I need to take a game or two off to restore my powers,” Avdija joked after his first game back from injury snapping his 114 consecutive games played streak that he was very proud of. “I think we’re going to be on a new streak. I can’t wait to break it.”

Deni Avdija – Photo Credit: Washington Wizards

Avdija has a modest seven points and three rebounds in 20 minutes on Tuesday in a win over the Eastern Conference contending Philadelphia 76ers, but made the game-sealing play by stripping the ball away from MVP candidate Joel Embiid with 23 seconds left and Washington clinging to a three-point lead.

“I knew that [Daniel Gafford] needed help. I think I’m really good at stripping the ball,” Avdija said about the play after the game. “That’s about it. I was focused, I was at the right time and in the right place. I went for the ball and I guess it ended up being a great play that helped us win the game.”

Against the Orlando Magic on Friday, Avdija stuffed the stat sheet with 13 points, seven rebounds, six assists, two steals, and a block in less than 28 minutes of work, even knocking down a couple of 3-pointers. Defensively, Avdija held his primary defensive assignment No. 1 overall pick Paolo Banchero to a mere 1-for-6 shooting from the field.

Deni Avdija – Photo Credit: Washington Wizards

“I’m more experienced, I’ve faced a lot of good players. I like challenges, I like taking the best guys, I like guarding. I feel like I did a good job today being physical and really helping get this win,” Avdija said after the win over the Magic. “I definitely feel like I’m evolving almost every game defensively, I’m learning new stuff, seeing clips, and I really try to take my defense to the next level. I feel like it’s only the beginning for me and I’m excited to see where my limits can take me and my potential defensively and offensively, but for now I’m happy I’m learning every day. I think I can do a lot more damage on both ends of the floor and I’m excited to do it in the future.”

“Since I was little, started playing basketball, I like playmaking, I liked getting my guys involved,” Avdija reminded the media after a fairly high assist night. “I was always a team player and this is how I play, it’s hard to change me. I need to be aggressive on offense and score when I need to but if my guys are not involved and they don’t have a rhythm, I’m going to make sure they have good passes from me to get themselves in rhythm.”

Deni Avdija – Photo Credit: Washington Wizards

The third-year forward recorded his career-high fifth double-double of the season on Sunday in the first of two matchups at the Milwaukee Bucks with 11 points and 12 rebounds, second most for Avdija this season. Avdija continues to get to the rim when teams surprisingly allow him to get to his right hand including a highlight dunk blowing past Joe Ingles.

“I think he played with great pace,” head coach Wes Unseld Jr. assessed Avdija after Sunday’s game. “Defensively, tried to play the right way. He’s playing with a level of confidence that is good, he’s finishing, he’s aggressive in his attack as far as getting to the rim. Just the level of confidence right now.”

Avdija will celebrate his 22nd birthday in Tuesday’s rematch against the Bucks where they may be healthier before a trip to Oklahoma City to wrap up the team’s current four-game road trip.

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