Deni Avdija Areas of Growth
Coming off of an up-and-down season that was cut short with injuries, Deni Avdija is being looked at to take a step up for the Washington Wizards. The team has more depth due to the Russell Westbrook trade, and Avdija is going to have to find his role. In his rookie season, Avdija started 32 of his 54 games. Now he’ll look to be a big bench player, slotting behind Kyle Kuzma at the three and Rui Hachimura at the four.
What does Avdija need to do to take that leap in year two? Here are three areas for Avdija to focus on in his sophomore season.
Focusing on Being a Reliable Secondary Creator
With his switch to a bench role, Deni Avdija will be asked to be a big playmaker for the second unit. Last season he shared the starting line-up with ball-dominant Russell Westbrook and Bradley Beal. Avdija only averaged 1.2 assists per game last season. It often wasn’t up to him to initiate the offense.
If he’s primarily off the bench, Avdija will be able to play a more similar game to his time at Maccabi Tel Aviv. One of Avdija’s strengths as a prospect was his playmaking ability. He can up his usage rate from 12 percent and help create for the second unit alongside Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Davis Bertans.
A sharpshooter Avdija is not. The 20-year-old struggled from the field in his rookie year, shooting only 31.5 percent from downtown. His biggest issue was from the corners. Check out this shot chart from his rookie season:
Deni Avdija’s shot chart in the 2020-21 NBA season. pic.twitter.com/A3vON0BntZ— Albert Lee (@aleeinthedmv) July 6, 2021
Avdija had a ton of opportunities from the corner and struggled to convert them. 28 percent from corner threes is not going to cut it as an NBA-level small forward. As Avdija moves to the bench, he’ll likely draw more attention as a scorer on the floor. He may not get as many open looks without Beal & Westbrook spacing the floor for him. That means Avdija is going to have to develop a more consistent stroke and make the most of the looks he does get.
Finishing at the Rim & the Line
Avdija can give himself better looks from three by being a more effective slasher. He is strong for his age but would do well to continue to bulk up and increase his strength at the rim. Avdija needs to get more aggressive in his drives and balance out his drives. Right now he’s still right-hand dominant and a little hesitant to call his own number on a drive. More drives will equal more free throw attempts.
The second part of this equation is becoming a better free-throw shooter. Avdija averaged only 0.8 free throw attempts per game as a rookie, a number that should get pumped up on the second unit. His free throw percentage was 64.4 percent. That number looks bad, but it actually shows an improvement from his 58.1 percent clip in the Israeli league. If his percentage can get up to 70 percent and his attempts can improve, it could free him up for more shots from the outside.
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