The 2020 draft class is up for contract extensions. This means that teams will have until one day before the start of the 2023-24 regular season to agree on contract extensions with players on rookie-scale contracts. If they can’t agree, the player will hit restricted free agency in July 2024. This applies to Deni Avdija who was the Washington Wizards’ 9th overall pick in 2020. Finding the right contract structure to agree on an extension for Avdija will be a challenge for both sides.
Avdija has proven himself to be a capable rotation player. He is a good defender and plays with a lot of effort on that end of the floor. He has good size, strength, and awareness to be a high-level defender for a long time.
However, other aspects of Avdija’s game haven’t developed the way the Wizards have hoped. He is a bad shooter and an inefficient scorer. He needs the ball in his hands to be effective but isn’t good enough at playmaking to trust him with a lot of on-ball reps. This offensive limitation lowers his ceiling.
Should the Wizards pay Avdija like a starter-caliber player?
He is also only 22 years old. That is what makes these contract negotiations difficult. Deni hasn’t produced at a starter-caliber level yet, but he has the potential to do so. Therefore, do you pay him like a future starter or a bench player?
Avdija’s 2020 classmate Isaiah Stewart of the Detroit Pistons recently agreed to a 4-year, $64 million contract extension. This could be a good blueprint for players who haven’t proven to be starter-level but have starter upside. It’s important to note that Stewart has shown more in his three seasons in the league than Avdija has. So it’s safe to presume that a lower annual salary than $16 million is fair for Avdija.
Letting Avdija hit restricted free agency next summer might be the best option
Should the Wizards offer Deni an extension of around $12-14 million a year?
Probably. A contract that looks like 3-year, $40 million would be considered a team-friendly deal. Anything above that level, however, risks being a negative-value contract down the line.
Would Avdija take this deal?
Probably not. With the rising salary cap, an average starter salary is almost $20 million, while a solid bench contributor makes between $10 and $15 million a year. A 22-year-old rotation-level player is likely not going to tie himself down to a multi-year contract paying him bench player money.
This makes the contract extension rather unlikely. Perhaps the most likely scenario for the Wizards and Avdija is letting things run their course and letting him hit restricted free agency next summer. This wouldn’t be the worst thing for either side. If Avdija does indeed blow up this season, the Wizards would be more than happy to match any offer sheet to the Israeli forward. That would be a good problem to have.