When the Washington Wizards parted ways with Tommy Sheppard in April, one would reasonably think Deni Avdija would be heading for restricted free agency in the summer of 2024. On the contrary, the new front office comprised of Michael Winger, Will Dawkins, and Travis Schlenk evaluated over a short period of time that Avdija’s two-way potential and diligence are the traits they are looking to rebuild around. With Bradley Beal’s contracts off the books, Washington has ample future payroll available and signed Avdija to a four-year, $55 million extension a day ahead of the Monday deadline for the draft class of 2020.
“Deni has many of the characteristics that we value in the players who represent our organization. He has a team-first mentality, works hard on his craft, competes with toughness, and is committed to improving the community,” said Wizards General Manager Will Dawkins in a press release. “That hard work has resulted in the year-to-year development of his overall game and we’re excited to have him continue that progress as a Wizard.”
“I was very happy and when I got [the contract extension], it was more than just the amount of money you get. It’s more about the organization loves you, they want you to stay, they respect you, and they believe in you. So for me that was the most important, I feel beloved, I feel like I belong here, and that’s my home. That was the reason for the signing as well,” Avdija began describing his gratefulness after Tuesday’s practice. “It was big time because obviously they haven’t known me for a long time and I feel like from when the time I had to meet them, I think they like me as a player and a person and I feel like they’re trying to build a really good culture here. For me to be one of the first signings, it’s big time. It means a lot as a person and a player. I’m very happy.”
Avdija, 22, was amenable to a possibly below-market-rate (less than this season’s mid-level exception and descending annual salary) in future seasons because it is still generational wealth for his family and he is glad to stay in the US capital city Washington, D.C.
“It was amazing and I worked so hard for this. My parents, I’m the only child for my mom and dad so they invested their whole life in me. They helped me become a better person, a better player. For me to have security for the rest of my family and generation is amazing. It’s a dream come true,” Avdija answered when asked about celebrating with his parents.
“It wasn’t that hard a decision because I wanted to stay in D.C. and I feel like D.C.’s my home,” Avdija set the record straight after saying ‘we’ll see what happens’ during Media Day three weeks prior. “I love the fans, I love the city, and I know we can do really great things here in the future and I really believe in that.”
Also at Media Day, Avdija said he was hungry to succeed in the season ahead and even though it is no longer a contract year when athletes know an elevated game rewards them significantly, the Israeli remains focused on taking his game to the next level. Certainly a lofty long-term goal, but Avdija wants to have a “great impact on both ends of the floor” because “you don’t see a lot of those in the NBA today and I’m trying to become one.” If Avdija’s meticulous offseason working on his shooting pays off, that will be a major step in the right direction.
“I’m not letting go of the gas pedal. I feel like I can be so much better as a player. I feel like I have so much potential in helping this team to get where it belongs. I’m going to work harder, I’m going to get better every day,” Avdija instinctively negated when asked if there was a sense of relief not entering free agency. “You want to justify it as a player and that’s really important. That’s me, that’s my character, I’m here to play. I’m here to compete and win and help the team win for everything else is just a bonus.”
Deni Avdija on his extension 💰
“Wasn't that hard decision because I wanted to stay in DC. I feel like DC is my home, I love the fans, I love the city & I know we can do really great things.”
“I'm not letting go of the gas pedal. I feel like I can be so much better as a player” pic.twitter.com/GpMfNVLc7R
— Neil Dalal (@NeilDalal96) October 24, 2023
It would be remiss not to mention that Avdija is beginning the 2023-24 NBA season playing with a heavy heart as he thinks of his numerous friends and family back home in Israel during trying times. “It’s a situation that’s got to end,” the pride of a country implored.
Deni Avdija on events back home weighing on him
“I’m praying for my people, checking on my friends. It’s a situation that’s got to end. It’s really tough for me and sometimes my mind is there, but I got to keep it professional.” pic.twitter.com/z84hpgPF1L
— Neil Dalal (@NeilDalal96) October 24, 2023