Deni Avdija’s confidence and play are on the rise for the Wizards following the trade deadline

Feb 15, 2022 | Holyland Hoops

The Washington Wizards tried to acquire 25-year old All-Star center Domantas Sabonis at the trade deadline but the Sacramento Kings arguably overpaid by giving up promising 2020 12th overall pick Tyrese Haliburton, taken three spots after Deni Avdija. We may never know if losing out on Sabonis led to Bradley Beal’s decision to undergo season-ending wrist surgery or the other way around, taking Washington out of the running for Sabonis, but regardless, Beal’s unavailability drastically changed the Wizards approach at last Thursday’s trade deadline.

Deni Avdija – Photo Credit: Washington Wizards

Yes, the big headline is Kristaps Porzingis as well as team president and general manager Tommy Sheppard moving off of Spencer Dinwiddie and Davis Bertans’ contracts that simply did not work out once signing in D.C. As a quick aside, Avdija shared that Porzingis immediately challenged him to FIFA the first time they met as teammates, but the big takeaway for fans of Avdija is that the 21-year old is staying put in Washington for at least a few more months as the Wizards were not going to sell their young assets with Beal out the rest of the season. In just three games since the deadline moves that were desperately needed for team chemistry, Avdija has scored in double-figures in each contest for just the second time in his career (double-figures in four straight in December).

“I’m having the confidence to be more aggressive, create more for others, have the ball a little more,” Avdija attributed to his recent stretch. “Just in general how the ball moves on offense is great, feels great, we’re sharing the ball, it looks great and generates a lot of shots for others and I’m part of the players that love to play make and get guys shots. Can’t complain.”

Before Avdija scored 12 points on 4-for-9 shooting, grabbed a career-high 15 rebounds, and dished out three assists in 31 minutes off the bench against Detroit, head coach Wes Unseld Jr. wanted to see his versatile wing play with more confidence. Ask and you shall receive, Wes, as the Deni Avdija confidence department is a bull market on the rise.

“I want to see him shoot with more consistency. Bottom line is shoot with a little bit more confidence. I think he’s taking the right kind of threes but doesn’t always step up and shoot it with the level of confidence I think he needs to have,” Unseld said pre-game. “I think it’s more his reaction to the misses and it’s human nature. The process is correct, he’s in the right spot, he shoots it at the right time. If it’s a quality look in the confines of what we run, I want him to feel confident and empowered to do that every time, make or miss.”

Deni Avdija – Photo Credit: Washington Wizards

The budding relationship of Kyle Kuzma, who is developing into a natural leader in his own right, and Deni Avdija has been discussed before, but cannot be overstated. Their jovial encounters with the right amount of spicy competition just makes you want to smile. When asked about Avdija’s game-high 15 rebounds, Kuzma had to point out, “only because I was playing the five [center] and I had to box out [Isaiah] Stewart all night. That’s the only reason he got 15, but I’ll take it. Good job, Deni.” Avdija also recalled Kuzma’s constant reminder to him that ‘you’re 6-9, 230 [pounds], you need to start using your body more.’

“[Confidence] comes from within, that comes from working every single day, which he does,” Kuzma assessed the idea of confidence as it relates to Avdija. “He loves the gym, he’s always in the gym before practice, after practice, and he comes back at night. Shit, you work that hard, you should be confident.”

When Sheppard drafted Avdija with the ninth overall pick passing on the likes of Haliburton, there was an understanding that it might take some time for Avdija to reach his full potential, but the Wizards are starting to see more and more glimpses into the high ceiling that attracted them to the Israeli. Washington wants to compete for the play-in tournament for the right to a playoff series even without Beal, but the more important aspect of the final 26 regular-season games has to be the continued development of the youth through extended playing time.

“I think it’s on the rise,” Avdija reflected when asked about his current level of confidence. “I didn’t shoot consistently throughout the season, but I feel as I’m getting the reps and staying after practices and coming in late and getting the shots, it helps me. It helps me be focused and believe in my shot. As I mature and be a complete player, the shots will fall better and I’ll be more confident and I feel like it’s going to be a good thing in the future.”

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