Avdija, Bertans not playing shows harsh reality of Wizards' depth


WASHINGTON -- In their 44th game of the 2021-22 season, the Wizards were finally whole. On Monday, they got All-Star guard Bradley Beal back from health and safety protocols and that left them with zero injuries or other absences of note, at least among players. Their coaching staff is a much different story.

With all of their players available, the Wizards finally got a glimpse at the team their front office envisioned when they overhauled the roster in the offseason. The newfound depth has produced some domino effects, as the Wizards essentially have too many rotation-worthy players to fit into an NBA rotation.

In Monday's win over the Sixers, the two players affected the most were Deni Avdija and Davis Bertans. Despite being a rotation mainstay for the first 43 games of the season, Avdija did not get in until there was 2:44 left in the fourth quarter and the game was already decided. Bertans didn't play at all, earning a DNP-CD from acting head coach Joe Blair.

There was a myriad of reasons why neither one got meaningful playing time and Blair laid them out in his postgame press conference.

"That's just the way it is because we're so strong across the board. As we were flowing and things were going, things were going well so we just continued to keep things going well. That's nothing against Deni. Deni is always a hard worker, he's an amazing person. I love Deni to death, that's my guy. We'll just continue to do what's best for the team and try to figure things out," Blair said.


Blair continued to explain how both Thomas Bryant and Rui Hachimura, in particular, were playing well and how that factored into Avdija and Bertans sitting out. Bryant and Hachimura recently made their season debuts after long absences and are trying to play their way into game shape and midseason form. Them showing progress was an important development.

Both Bryant and Hachimura had their best games of the season so far. Bryant scored 15 points with five rebounds, while Hachimura had 11 points and five boards, as the two combined to help the Wizards' bench outscore Philly's 63-27. It was a breakout game of sorts for each of them and that is an excellent sign for the Wizards moving forward.

Given they play in the frontcourt, them staying on the floor had a direct effect on Avdija and Bertans. That could continue to be a factor, as Bryant and Hachimura will be available for more minutes the more games they play.

Some nights, it may be Avdija and/or Bertans who get plenty of minutes while others sit. Beal may be the only player whose role is truly guaranteed night-to-night.

Kyle Kuzma may be next on that list with how he has played lately. Kuzma has emerged as the Wizards' second-best scorer in recent weeks and has been one of their leaders all season.

He has developed a close relationship with Avdija as a practice partner in the same position group. Kuzma has even said Avdija reminds him of himself.

Kuzma took Avdija aside after Monday's win to share some words of encouragement, knowing Avdija wanted to be out on the floor.

"Obviously, you want to be out there, you want to be competitive, you want to play every single minute you can. But sometimes the ball just doesn't bounce your way. He's a smart kid, he's probably going to the gym right now to work out. That's the type of kid he is. It's all about staying with the process," Kuzma said.

While the Wizards' rotation is in transition at the moment, it may not stay that way. The goal would be to settle on nine or 10 guys to play more regularly, according to head coach Wes Unseld Jr. There is also the possibility the Wizards make a trade to consolidate their depth at the upcoming deadline in February.

For now, guys like Avdija and Bertans can only stay ready. With the Wizards' depth, minutes aren't as easy to come by as they once were.