Deni Avdija continues to show two-way promise amidst Wizards’ losing streak

Nov 23, 2023 | Deni Avdija

The Washington Wizards’ losing streak has grown to seven games after blowing a 19-point lead with 16 minutes to play in Charlotte on Wednesday. Despite the abysmal 2-12 record to start the season, Deni Avdija continues to be an efficient bright spot this season where the number one priority is player development and not necessarily wins and losses. Avdija is averaging 12.7 points, 5.4 rebounds, 3.4 assists, and 1.1 steals per game in just 27.6 minutes and his scoring is efficient from the field (53.4%) as well as from beyond the arc (17/41 = 41.5%).

Nearly 40 percent of Avdija’s shot attempts are coming at the rim where he is shooting an efficient 67.9 percent from 3 feet or closer to the basket proving out the eye test that he has done a better job finishing at the cup, which was a struggle earlier in his career. His aggressiveness is on full display as he continues to punish teams not taking away his right hand despite what should be obvious on the scouting report. In his first three seasons, only 14, 22, and 28 percent of Avdija’s field goal attempts were at the rim from 2020-21 to 2022-23, respectively, so hopefully the two-way forward can maintain not settling as the rest of the season continues and defenses adjust to him.

“It comes with experience,” Avdija said during a halftime interview in Charlotte where he had 11 points on 4-6 shooting in 15 first half minutes. “I feel like, I just use my size, be aggressive. When I go right, it’s tough for the opposing team. I’m just going to keep being aggressive, even if I get into the paint, I can create for other people, now the whole floor is opened up. I’m just going to keep aggressive, that’s it.”

The 22-year-old’s calling card remains defense, which is often dire for Washington who sports a poor defensive starting backcourt, and he has had plentiful matchups against All-Star level players in recent games. Whether it is Luka Doncic, Julius Randle, Jalen Brunson, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Damian Lillard, LaMelo Ball, or Miles Bridges, Avdija remains a pest to make their life difficult and has done well despite the varying types of player matchups: speed vs. strength. One area where Avdija can still improve, which he did against Charlotte, is limiting the fouls committed as he had a combined 11 infractions over the three-game homestand versus Dallas, New York, and Milwaukee. Granted there were some frustrating whistles along the way, but Avdija has to better control his emotion and understand that Washington will not be getting the benefit of any whistles for the near future.

As a complete aside, Avdija went viral last weekend for his understandable disdain of Capital One Arena often being turned into an away venue by opposing fans. It is easy and understandable to say the Wizards should be better (not happening as this multi-year rebuild is just getting underway) and ticket prices should be cheaper, but it is an understandable emotion for a player that grew up in front of passionate fans at home in Israel.

On the flip side, anywhere Avdija goes on the road, he likely has Israeli supporters rooting for him as was the case in Charlotte where a young fan had a sign inviting him over for Thanksgiving. In Avdija’s classic loving fashion, he met with the kid after the game sharing a fist bump and signing his jersey. Washington will spend much of the next two weeks on the road in Milwaukee, Detroit, and Orlando with a quick stop at home against Atlanta in between on Saturday. The latter matchups provide an opportunity to get back in the win column before two regular season games have to still be scheduled in the first full week of December (likely 12/6 and 12/8) for the teams not participating in the later rounds of the NBA’s inaugural in-season tournament.

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