The Washington Wizards have undergone immense change since the end of last season. Owner Ted Leonsis made a surprise decision to relieve Tommy Sheppard of his front office duties, but seemingly hit a lottery with the triumvirate of Michael Winger, Will Dawkins, and Travis Schlenk that rationally brought the Bradley Beal era to a close. As Deni Avdija enters his fourth season in the NBA, the last of his rookie contract unlikely to be extended in the next couple weeks by a front office that did not draft him, he is eager to prove his worth.
“A lot of working out, taking care of my body, making sure I improved what I wanted to improve. And have some time to enjoy, family, friends, spend some time on the beach,” Avdija described his first healthy offseason in his NBA career. “I focused on being more consistent in my shooting. It’s not a secret I want to improve my shooting percentage and definitely be a more efficient shooter from outside the arc. Going both directions [off the dribble]. I became really good at going right, I still have some things to improve [motioning his left hand], adding another side to go to really going to make defenders wonder.”
Avdija, 22, gave the politically correct response about going into a season with so much financially on the line. Having seen so much turnover in the organization during his short time in the NBA, it is clear Avdija is aware he might not be in Washington D.C. this time next year (or even in five months) based on the last sentence in his response to the Sports Rabbi’s question on impending free agency.
“For now just focusing on working out, meet my new teammates, and just being Deni, do what I do,” Avdija smoothly manuevered. “Be vocal on the court, showing good stuff in practice, put in extra work and I think everything is going to take care of itself. I don’t want to focus on stuff that I don’t need to focus right now. If good things happen, good things happen. Obviously I love DC, but we’ll see what happens.”
Even though the new Washington front office does not have ties to Avdija, both Michael Winger and Will Dawkins were complimentary of him during their introductory press availability in June. Dawkins further endorsed Avdija’s offseason diligence last week and Winger emphasized that all returning players are being given a clean canvas to make the most of. During the offseason, assistant coach Zach Guthrie and player development trainer Joe Ajike spent time with Avdija in Israel, which the latter was deeply appreciative of.
Wizards GM Will Dawkins on Deni Avdija
“He’s really invested in his body this summer and really invested with the team. We’ve had a lot of people travel to go visit him and just spend time with him. He spent time in D.C. this summer.”
Notes good relationship with Deni’s agent. pic.twitter.com/tnjWghtoWI
— Neil Dalal (@NeilDalal96) September 27, 2023
“Definitely, I’m going to say it was a big, big part of my summer is being able to stay home and being able to have the guys that see me in D.C. see where I’m from, see my culture, really know what I need to be a successful player,” Avdija passionately described. “That was really important for them to see and for the Wizards to take care of me and send people that want to take care of me. It’s big time, I don’t take it for granted, I appreciated it a lot. And made me mentally better and working better too.”
Despite his still extremely young age, Avdija is indeed the longest-tenured Washington Wizard after just three seasons, which he has joked makes him an NBA veteran. Although the Israeli still has much to improve on, he is taking natural leadership steps by giving advice to Bilal Coulibaly on things he struggled with as a rookie in a new country.
“I’m always reaching out and letting the guys know ‘everything you need, I’m here’”, in classic Deni fashion. “If you have any questions about the city, places to go, food, whatever. They can always come and feel free to ask me.”
It has been a long three seasons with plenty of obstacles for Deni Avdija and he has grown a lot since he was a rookie with future Hall of Famer Russell Westbrook as his veteran. Finally reaping the benefits of a normal NBA offseason, the last thing for Avdija to do is demonstrate his capability to be a starting caliber two-way player. If he accomplishes that, he’ll possibly command $15-20 million annually next summer, Only time will tell, but for now enjoy the stylish Deni Avdija on the Wizards’ red carpet before a fashion show on Wednesday benefitting charity.
“I’m hungry,” Avdija pounced as a response on his approach coming into the season. “I feel like I’ve been here for three years and I learned a lot through everybody that’s been here and taught me a lot of the things I needed to learn. I’m hungry, I’m hungry to succeed, I’m hungry to get some wins and having a winning culture here. I feel like we have a great group of guys and great potential. I’m excited.”
Deni Avdija styling down the red carpet pic.twitter.com/PR3qQgp3sy
— Hoop District (@Hoop_District) October 4, 2023