Washington, DC – Neil Dalal, Sports Rabbi Correspondent
Washington Wizards rookie Deni Avdija has been in D.C. for just two weeks and is already on the eve of his preseason debut on Sunday against the Brooklyn Nets. That is the life of the 2020 NBA rookie class who known their team for less than a month. Bradley Beal, a former 19-year old rookie, gave the current 19-year old Wizard some advice as he begins his NBA career.
“You’re always going to feel like you didn’t do good because you have higher expectations for yourself and you should,” Beal said to Avdija during a training camp practice. Embrace every single moment of the year. You’re going to have good days, horrible days, and in-between days. Embrace all of them because you need all of them.”
We know that Avdija’s diligence and hunger fit into general manager Tommy Sheppard’s desired culture further exacerbated by Russell Westbrook’s presence. That increases the long-term prospects for the Wizards, but that should not underestimate Avdija’s near-term value presently. No doubt it will be an adjustment to the NBA’s speed and physicality, Avdija has admitted as much. Washington did their first few minutes of scrimmaging just Wednesday and the only way the game will slow down is with a lot more continued practice.
“I think his mechanics are good right now, it’s just he needs reps,” head coach Scott Brooks explained. “He’s a 19-year old kid that needs reps. He’s made shots every day he practiced, it seems like he makes big shots as well. I think his shot is good, he’s just going to have to continue to work in progress. His form, the mechanics, I think are pretty solid.”
It is no surprise for a coach to be complimentary of his newest prospect so you have to take it with a grain of salt, but Avdija has also impressed his teammates early in his NBA career. The person that may understand what Avdija is going through the most is the person that went through it last year, Rui Hachimura. The 2019 first-round pick had a successful rookie campaign but dealt with his own bumps in the road with injury and the four-month mid-season shutdown.
“He’s a good shooter, typical European big, tall shooter almost like DB [Davis Bertans],” Hachimura described Avdija. “He’s a good defender, he can move. He moves like a guard. He can do a lot of positions, he can kind of be point guard, he can play forwards, he can be shooter, he can do a lot of things.”
What is in Avdija’s favor is his three years of experience with Maccabi Tel Aviv in the EuroLeague, which is against grown men, unlike the NCAA. Learning from the likes of five-time All-NBA big man Amar’e Stoudemire during their time as teammates overseas is invaluable. Avdija did not dominate the EuroLeague like Luka Doncic so have reasonable expectations initially, but he will not be scared or back down from the challenge in front of him.
“I came at the age of sixteen to play professionally and I experienced how it is to play with adults in Maccabi,” Avdija said. “You know everybody is older than you and they got different things to talk about, it wasn’t easy in the beginning, they wouldn’t help me. It made me tougher throughout the years, and I managed to face it and be better and really be a part of the team after three years. So after I faced that challenge, I think it’s very hard to challenge me again.”