Washington Wizards: 4 Players with something to prove this preseason

Washington Wizards. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)
Washington Wizards. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images) /
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Washington Wizards Deni Avdija
Washington Wizards Deni Avdija (Photo by Nikola Krstic/MB Media/Getty Images) /

Deni Avdija

We’ve seen what most everybody on the Washington Wizards roster can do, whether they did it in a Wizards jersey or not. One person who we haven’t seen play against NBA competition yet: Deni Avdiaj.

All eyes will be on the ninth overall pick from the 2020 NBA Draft as he makes his preseason debut. The 19-year-old won’t be making his professional debut, he did that years ago with Israel’s Maccabi Tel Aviv, but the NBA stage is something entirely different than what he’s used to. Luckily, not everything will be unfamiliar for Avdija. Wizards’ Anthony Gill, who is also making his Wizards debut, has played against Avdija overseas. The Nets, Avdija’s first NBA opponent, hired Amar’e Stoudemire as a player development coach. Stoudemire was one of Avdija’s teammates in Israel. So there will be some familiarity.

Two things that Avdija will need to prove to Wizards fans this preseason: can he be consistent from distance, and can he help on the defensive end. According to Gill, Avdija “never saw a shot he didn’t like” in EuroLeague. New teammate Rui Hachimura already has high praise for the rookie’s shooting abilities, likening him to Davis Bertans in how he can, even at 6’10”, still shoot and move with fluidity.

Despite all of that praise, Avdija put up unimpressive numbers from outside while overseas. In 27 EuroLeague games last season, he shot 27 percent from three and 56 percent from the free-throw line.

On the other side of the ball, Avdija’s length and IQ should make him an impactful player on the defensive end. The Wizards desperately need reliable defense on the wing. Although Avdija was never a liability on the defensive end with Maccabi Tel Aviv, he wasn’t a top tier defender, and the competition is only getting tougher now. Will he be able to keep up?