Congrats, Rui Hachimura and Deni Avdija! You are officially Rising Stars in the NBA.
Despite a pair of losses in their last two games, the Wizards are heading into their final game before the All-Star break with some good news. Rui Hachimura and Deni Avdija were both selected to represent the Washington Wizards as members of Team World on this year’s Rising Stars roster. The two teams (Team USA and Team World) were announced on NBA Top Shot, an online marketplace that is turning video highlights or “moments” into their own asset class. Just like the roster announcements and so many other things over the past 12 months, this honor will be entirely virtual.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the NBA has decided to abbreviate the NBA All-Star weekend this season. One of the things on the chopping block was the Rising Stars Challenge, so we won’t get to see these squads in action. However, the NBA still made sure to spotlight their most talented up-and-comers by releasing the rosters anyways.
The Wizards are one of six teams that have multiple players on the 2021 Rising Stars rosters. The Denver Nuggets, Golden State Warriors, Memphis Grizzlies, Miami Heat, New Orleans Pelicans, and Oklahoma City Thunder also have more than one rising star. This is the Wizards’ second consecutive season having two players on the Rising Stars roster. Last season, Rui Hachimura and Moritz Wagner were both members of Team World. Hachimura finished with 14 points, seven rebounds, and four assists, and Wagner added 16 points, four rebounds, and two steals off the bench. Unfortunately, Team World still lost 151-131 to Team USA.
Deni Avdija and Rui Hachimura will miss out on an easy confidence-boost now that the NBA Rising Stars Game is not happening.
This season, there will be no winner and no loser. Just rosters. And it’s a bit of shame for Wizards fans. Although it’s a fairly uncompetitive, glorified pickup game, the Rising Stars Challenge gives young players a little more freedom than they may have on their regular teams. That would certainly be true for Rui Hachimura and Deni Avdija, who take a backseat to Russell Westbrook and Bradley Beal on a nightly basis.
By getting out from under those All-Star shadows, Deni Avdija and Rui Hachimura would have had a chance to show what they can do when their leashes are longer and their lights are greener. For Avdija, specifically, that would have been invaluable. After working to become a day-one starter, Avdija has gradually faded from the Wizards’ rotation and seems less involved when he is out there.
Rui Hachimura’s role isn’t in question the way Avdija’s is, but the Wizards have longed to see more aggression from Hachimura since his rookie season. Rui, himself has admitted he needs to improve to that end. A low-pressure game against some “peers” that are also still getting their NBA feet wet might help jumpstart a more aggressive style from the second-year forward.
Both Avdija and Hachimura would have benefitted from a low-stakes showcase in which they could be themselves, show off, and make mistakes in ways that aren’t acceptable during regular-season games with the Wizards. It’s a bummer that they won’t get that chance, but getting the Rising Stars nod is an accomplishment in itself and should reassure Wizards fans that the future is in good hands.