The Washington Wizards are approaching a completely healthy and available roster for the first time this season once Thomas Bryant completes his ACL recovery (possibly by next week) and Anthony Gill exits health and safety protocols. With the season debut of third-year forward Rui Hachimura on Sunday in Orlando, Deni Avdija played a season-low 12 minutes, recording just 2 points and 3 rebounds.
Didn't know Thomas Bryant and Deni Avdija were tight like that 😂 pic.twitter.com/A3HPsBRg0Z
— Hoop District (@Hoop_District) January 10, 2022
Avdija has averaged 23 minutes per game thus far in his sophomore season, which matches his rookie average, but that is likely to go down at least a bit when Wes Unseld Jr. has a complete roster at his disposal. In his last four games, Avdija is averaging 6.3 points on 24.1 percent shooting and for the season he is only shooting 67.3 percent on shots at the rim and 56.8 percent on layups. Maybe the Israeli is falling victim to not a large sample size, but the eye test clearly shows he has missed several easy opportunities expected of any NBA player.
“I think we’ll look at it and we’ll have to narrow it down. You can’t play 12 guys,” Wes Unseld Jr. said when asked about the logjam at the forward positions. “The challenge is for guys who aren’t necessarily in that rotation that night to stay ready because you never know, whether it’s fouls or matchups or things just aren’t going well and you need to inject another body. I trust those guys to be ready and respond. It’s not always going to be the same group every night. We have to pare it down so that group can get a rhythm, but the game takes on a life of its own. You have to read the game and see who can help you in that moment.”
After a 10-3 start and leading the Eastern Conference, the Wizards have gone just 10-17 and will give Hachimura every chance to be the two-way impact player he showed flashes of in his first two seasons. With Kyle Kuzma playing some of the best basketball of his career, posting Washington’s first 20+ point, 20+ rebound game since 2010, he will not be losing many minutes. Fans will argue that Davis Bertans’ $80 million contract does not warrant him playing time, but the Wizards have struggled shooting the ball all season and he’s shown recent glimpses of his 2019-20 form that got him paid despite his one-dimensional play. That is a crowded forwards room with just 96 minutes to go around each game.
“I think you have to kind of get guys in to give them a look and keep them locked in at times and with all these guys coming back from COVID, see where they are. So, it’s not always clean and a hard nine, but I think as we get into the midpoint of the season and beyond, that 9-man rotation or 9 1/2 is kind of where I want to be,” Unseld said about his ideal rotation size.
Spencer Dinwiddie, Bradley Beal, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Kyle Kuzma, and Daniel Gafford are locks for the rotation for the immediate future. That leaves, in no particular order, Raul Neto, Aaron Holiday, Corey Kispert, Deni Avdija, Rui Hachimura, Davis Bertans, Montrezl Harrell, and Thomas Bryant vying for playing time. Avdija’s defense is too good to be completely out of the rotation, but he may have a shorter leash with other viable options available. Holiday was left out of the rotation in Orlando and Neto’s defensive shortcomings due to his lack of size have been even more on display lately, which may allow Avdija to steal some minutes at the backup point guard slot where he got the opportunity when Dinwiddie was out. Time will tell as Unseld sees how his players mesh best together.
Washington will begin an 8-game homestand starting on Tuesday against the Oklahoma City Thunder that will be honored as Jewish Heritage Night. The US national anthem will be sung by Jewish artist Arianna Zukerman, performances by Dance Yesodot and Avirah Israeli Dance Company, and Deni Avdija will hold a postgame question and answer as part of the celebration.