The Washington Wizards are on a frightening 10-game losing streak with seemingly no end in sight amidst a brutal 6-game West Coast road trip. Deni Avdija is averaging 8.5 points, 6.0 rebounds, 3.2 assists, and 1.2 steals in 29.2 minutes per game over the skid that included an unlucky bounce on a near steal against LeBron James and the Lakers.
Prior to the Lakers game, Avdija was averaging 4.5 assists per game over a six-game sample size, which head coach Wes Unseld Jr. contributed to his playmaking decision-making outside of set plays.
“Measuring that risk-reward, at times, it’s not going to be scripted so can you put the ball in your hands and trust this is not a play, now you’re just playing the game. Can you facilitate and make the right reads,” Unseld detailed.
With opposing defenses daring Avdija to shoot with a borderline disrespectful amount of space on the perimeter, Unseld was pleased before the Clippers game with how the third-year forward has adjusted.
“I think he’s shot the three with a little bit more confidence so that helps. Teams have cross-matched, more so for KP [Kristaps Porzingis], put their 5s on him. Doing different things within the offense to keep their 5s in coverage so he becomes our offensive 5 so to speak. That’s helped him as well and allows him to kind of pop into space, drive and kick, play pick and roll, puts more pressure on those type of cross matches,” Unseld explained.
“I thought he bounced back well, he was very aggressive, more downhill, made some plays in pick and rolls. Thought he defended relatively well, was able to do so without fouling. He played with a different level of confidence which was good to see,” Unseld said back on December 7 after a loss at Chicago.
Granted it is a small sample size of 4-for-9 shooting from 3 over the last 3 games, but Avdija predicted the subtle bounce back in his jump shooting before Wednesday’s game.
“Shooting with confidence, making my percentage up. I started the season a little slow, but I believe in myself, I believe in my shot and I feel like it is coming together for me,” Avdija foreshadowed.
Whether it is fair or not, Avdija is going to be overly scrutinized on the defensive end for minimal contact and contrastingly not given the benefit of the doubt when he feels like he is fouled on the offensive end. That was the case on Wednesday night in Denver when he felt he was fouled by two-time MVP Nikola Jokic in the fourth quarter and Unseld had to rightfully tell Avdija to calm down as the most important play is always the next one.
“He’s frustrated, we’re going through a rough patch. Sometimes the fouls, whether they’re fouls or not fouls, he feels like the calls are not going his way. You can’t control it. I understand his frustration, but you can’t linger in that moment. Ok, get your frustration out and you got to think next play,” Unseld expressed.
Deni Avdija 🤝 Nikola Jokic pic.twitter.com/hKVT5FaEFh
— Neil Dalal (@NeilDalal96) December 15, 2022
Prior to tough matchups racking up the fouls against the likes of Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, Nikola Jokic, Aaron Gordon, and John Wall, Avdija was doing a better job keeping his hand out of the cookie jar to avoid foul calls that he generically reasons to being more solid, but also maybe understanding what specifically the referees are looking for based on their feedback.
“Mostly just staying solid, I felt like a lot of times I did a great job on defense, I got guys shooting tough shots and just finish the job. Get your hands up, try not to foul. If they make it, good for them, I’m not trying to go crazy and make crazy plays because a lot of times I get fouls called on me so I’m just trying to be solid all around defensively and really get my hands out of the ball,” Avdija pinpointed.
“I’m doing a better job of talking to them and asking questions on how I can be better or what they saw in a calm way so I can really take it to the next level and really understand how they’re officiating,” Avdija shared.
At Wednesday morning’s shootaround in Denver, Avdija exclusively told the Sports Rabbi what the then-upcoming Hannukah holiday means to him.
“It gives me a little bit of joy also outside of basketball just celebrating my holiday, have that nice spirit. I enjoy being with my family at that time and it’s fun times,” Avdija described.
Deni Avdija lights the first candle for Hanukkah before Wizards-Lakerspic.twitter.com/od9WCKkgaQ
— Neil Dalal (@NeilDalal96) December 19, 2022
With times being tough for the Wizards, enjoy a group of Avdija fans singing him a song in Denver that brought a smile to the 21-year-old’s face when he watched it later in the locker room after the game.
Deni Avdija fans in Denver with a song for their guy pic.twitter.com/CcMAWllNTY
— Neil Dalal (@NeilDalal96) December 15, 2022