Washington Wizards: 3 Training camp battles to watch

(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) /
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(Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
(Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images) /

Positional Battle #1: Starting Small Forward
Best Options: Isaac Bonga or Deni Avdija

This battle will be the most entertaining to watch during training camp. The starting small forward position will determine a lot for the Washington Wizards this season. A huge jump in production at this spot would really increase their chances of making it back to the playoffs. Last season, Isaac Bonga manned this position, starting in 49 games. The Wizards view Bonga, who is only 21 years old,  as the prototypical 3&D wing player.

Bonga stands at 6’8″ with a 7’0″ wingspan and a ridiculous standing reach of 8’10”. His length, combined with his quick hands and feet, make him a menace on the defensive end. Bonga posted the highest defensive rating (106.9) and had the most defensive win shares (0.067) on the Wizards last season for any player that played at least 20 games. 

He’s a terrific defender for a defense that ranked near the bottom last season. The Wizards were 29th in total team defense last year, but Bonga was one of the few bright spots. This year, Washington is hoping that Bonga can provide more on the offensive end, though. In 18.9 minutes of play per game last season, he only averaged 5.0 points on 3.5 field goal attempts. He did shoot a respectable 35.2 percent from three, which is promising. However, he only attempted 1.1 threes a game last season. He’s not very confident in his jump shot yet.

With more confidence and growth, Bonga could end up being an adequate small forward. The problem is, the Wizards don’t have time to wait for Bonga’s development. They’re in win-now mode after missing the playoffs the last two seasons. For this reason, I believe rookie Deni Avdijia will come in and immediately be the starting small forward on opening day.

Washington invested the ninth pick in the 2020 NBA Draft in Deni Avdija, so it’ll be hard to keep him off the floor. Avdija may be young, but he has been playing professionally in Israel and the EuroLeague since he was 16. Last season, Avdijia became the youngest MVP in the Israeli Premier League after winning the award last year as a 19-year-old. In 26 games at the EuroLeague level last season, Avdija averaged 4.0 points, 2.6 rebounds, and 1.2 assists in 14.3 minutes per game. These aren’t incredible numbers, but Deni’s basketball IQ and feel for the game are outstanding! Avdjia will make an immediate impact on the floor the moment he puts on a Wizards jersey.

Last season, Scott Brooks started Rui Hachimura from day one, and he was chosen with the ninth pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. He went on to have a tremendous first year, earning All-Rookie 2nd Team honors. The trust and faith the coaching staff had in Hachimura early on bodes well for Avdija. Washington won’t be afraid to throw Avdija right into the fire and let him play his game. He’ll end up being the steal of the draft if the Wizards decide to give him the starting spot out of the gate!

Projected Winner: Deni Avdija