Evaluating Avdija’s Progress With Wizards

It is fair to say that the Washington Wizards' decision to make Deni Avdija their first round draft pick in 2020 raised plenty of eyebrows in the NBA.

The Wizards had been tracking Avdija for the past few years and he was tipped to be one of the top prospects in the draft.

However, his performances during his two seasons in the EuroLeague before entering the draft did not necessarily scream "first-round pick."
He was a role player for Maccabi Tel Aviv in Israel, starting five out of 34 games and averaging just four points per outing.

Despite his underwhelming statistics, the Wizards (which seems to have fans in Asia as we found a surprising review of this game on a Thai sports site) viewed Avdija as the ideal player to fill a gaping void in the small forward position.

Some respected pundits tipped him to be the best Israeli basketball player in NBA history, placing additional pressure on his shoulders ahead of his debut season.

Avdija made a solid start to life in the NBA last term, averaging 6.3 points and 4.9 rebounds in 54 appearances and 32 starts.

He logged an average of more than 23 minutes per game, before suffering a hairline ankle fracture against the Golden State Warriors in April. Avdija had already shown plenty of potential up to that point, although his field goal and three-point shooting percentages still needed work.
The appointment of Wes Unseld, Jr. as head coach last summer has undoubtedly had a positive effect on Avdija's performances this season. He started to come more to the fore during December, notching double figures in four straight games in the run up to Christmas.

His display against the Utah Jazz in the third game of that run was extremely noteworthy, particularly with regards to his defensive efforts.
Avdija made life difficult for Jazz duo Jordan Clarkson and Donovan Mitchell as the Wizards recorded an impressive 109-103 victory.

His efforts clearly made an impact on Unseld Jr, who has subsequently handed the 21-year-old increased playing time in recent weeks. This has helped the Wizards look much more competitive, with the team producing more stops and running more in transition.

Avdija's rise up the ranks is likely to have a knock-on effect on other areas in the squad, with some of the Wizards' underperforming stars under pressure for their places.

These include Aaron Holiday, Raul Neto, Davis Bertans and Spencer Dinwiddie, along with the criminally over-played Bradley Beal. The 28-year-old has averaged more than 36 minutes per game this season — a tally that is unsustainable if the Wizards want to qualify for the NBA playoffs.

It is also worth noting that the Wizards have produced some of their better performances without Beal in the lineup. While his 24.1 points per game average is not to be sniffed at, there are occasions when the Wizards seem to be over-reliant on him. This has still been the case during the early part of 2022, with Beal averaging 38.3 minutes per game against the Chicago Bulls, Charlotte Hornets, and Houston Rockets.

While Unseld, Jr. needs to find a solution to this issue, he has clearly realized the benefit of utilizing Avdija more often. In the three games since the start of the year, he has averaged 35.7 minutes per game, including a season-high 40 against the Hornets.

Although the Wizards have only won one of those three outings, they can count themselves unfortunate not to have collected 6 points. Despite this run of results, the Wizards are still handily placed to mount a sustained challenge to secure a play-off spot this term. Given his progress over the past 18 months, do not be surprised to see Avdija play a key role in their bid to make the postseason.

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