There were never any questions about Deni Avdija’s defense. He had already established himself as a solid perimeter defender with the size and strength to stay in front of the best offensive players in the league. He is not the most elite lockdown defender due to his athletic limitations, but he has consistently been competent on that end. The questions about Avdija’s game were on offense. His low usage rate, inability to play off-ball due to his lack of shooting, and tendency to defer to his teammates plagued him since he came into the league, lowering his ceiling as a player.
This season has been a different story through seven games. The 22-year-old Israeli forward has finally taken the forward step the Wizards fans have been waiting for. And that is excellent news for a fanbase desperate for optimism.
Avdija is averaging career-best numbers across the board
In the seven games this season, Avdija is averaging 13 points, 5.3 rebounds, 3.6 assists, and a steal per game on 52.9% shooting from the field, 47.1% from three, and 78.6% from the free-throw line. Every single one of those marks, except for rebounds, is a career-best number for Avdija. Doing this while having by far the highest usage rate of his career with 19.5% is even more impressive. He is having the most efficient scoring season of his career while significantly increasing his volume.
Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of this performance is the fact that he is only playing 24.7 minutes per game. Despite being a full-time starter now, he has seen a decrease in his playing time. This is due to the fact that Washington suffered five blowout losses so far, causing the starters to sit the entire fourth quarters of the games.
This means that his averages will likely go up as the season progresses. The outside shooting percentages are likely unsustainable, but when he inevitably gets his minutes closer to 30 minutes per game, his production will undoubtedly increase. Averages of 15 points and 5 assists are not outside the realm of possibility.
Has Avdija been the second-best player on the Wizards this season?
There is an argument to be made that Avdija has been the second-best Wizards so far. Kyle Kuzma has been carrying most of the burden offensively, but Avdija has been excelling in his role as the secondary playmaker. He is more confident shooting the ball, more aggressive attacking the basket, and more assertive as the team leader. That is exactly what the Wizards want from their longest-tenured player in their fourth season.
He is averaging career-highs in points, assists, and steals per game, while having his most efficient shooting season, despite only playing 24 minutes per game. There is an argument to be made for him being the best all-around performer on the team through six games.
If the Wizards are able to keep games close, it will be interesting to see how Avdija performs in the clutch. Whether coach Wes Unseld Jr. trusts him with running the offense in high-stress moments will be worth keeping an eye on all season. If Avdija can show an ability to take over games late, he should emerge as a high-end starter-caliber player in the league. And that would make his contract one of the best bargain deals in the NBA.