Rookie sensation Deni Avdija makes his regular-season debut Wednesday night as the Wizards begin their season in Philadelphia against a talented Sixers squad. Avdija looks to make an impression in a game he knows will be viewed by Israeli supporters across the globe.
Asked what it meant to him to represent Israel, Avdija appeared to have little anxiety towards serving as the face of his nation in the NBA while maintaining a day by day approach. “I think a lot of people will watch and I’ll have a whole nation behind me. They know that everything will come along eventually, whether I do good or not I’m looking at the long term and I hope I’ll have a good game in Philly.”
In the Philadelphia 76ers, Avdija and the Wizards are faced with the challenge of shutting down an offense that revolves around superstars Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, the former of which could potentially see time as Avdija’s matchup defensively. Simmons is both one of the league’s best defenders, as well as a prominent scorer and shot creator, and attempting to both score on and guard the Sixers’ young star is quite the challenge for Avdija to begin his career. Avdija’s success, particularly offensively, will likely be dependent on Washington’s star-studded backcourt duo of Russell Westbrook and Bradley Beal’s ability to draw the majority of Philadelphia’s defensive attention.
Adjusting to the NBA is undoubtedly a daunting task, and when asked who he has grown closest with on his new team while adjusting to American society, Avdija tapped a fellow Wizards’ rookie as well as a former Euroleague opponent as those he has formed immediate connections with.
“I’ve grown close to both Cassius Winston and Anthony Gill. Cassius from college and AG is from Europe and we’re there to support each other and I think we will have a great year.”
Speaking on if former Israeli NBA player Omri Caspi has provided the young phenom with any advice for his first game, Avdija spoke fondly of the former sharpshooter. “Before I left Israel I spoke to Omri a lot and he knows me and that I’m going to do my best and I’ll work hard. He’s always there to answer my questions.”
The Sixers pose a challenge for any opponent due to their size and number of lengthy defenders capable of covering multiple positions. The key for Avdija not only tomorrow night but throughout his rookie season will be to retain the confidence he has demonstrated early on even when his shot isn’t falling. Avdija is not expected to carry the load for the Wizards offensively, rather for him to be productive on the floor he simply needs to compliment Westbrook and Beal by knocking down open looks and providing defensive versatility by utilizing his plus size.
Simmons and fellow Sixers starting forward Tobias Harris, a potential Avdija matchup that while not as difficult to score on defensively is certainly a talented shot-creator, are quite the welcome to the NBA for Avdija. What needs to be established is Avdija doesn’t need to be an immediate offensive star to be an impact player, he just needs to fulfill his role as a secondary option and consistent perimeter scorer, while sustaining the same fiery, energetic spirit that won over fans in Tel-Aviv, and he will fair just fine in D.C.
Washington begins their season at Philadelphia tomorrow at 7 p.m. before making their home debut against Orlando Saturday at 7 p.m.