Deni Avdija hasn’t had the easiest last few months.
As the Wizards’ first-round pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, he joined a Wizards team during a frantic COVID season as he tried to pick up the NBA game in an entirely new country. And, late in the season, he suffered a fracture in his right ankle that ended his season — leaving him rehabbing for the majority of the offseason.
In Wednesday’s loss against the Raptors, the talent and inexperience of Avdija were on display.
In 25:34 on the floor, he went 4-of-7 shooting and scored 11 points with six rebounds. He was a needed spark in the third quarter, where he made a few buckets in a row to keep the Wizards in the game. But there was also a stretch in the first half where he missed easy shots near the rim, something he knows is an issue.
“My lack of focus around the rim this year didn’t start that well,” Avdija said. “I just need to keep playing through it. I didn’t play a long time, my sharpness needs to come back, the contact around the rim needs to come back. I’m learning from it, definitely. I’m very hard on myself for missing those, I’m working on those. It’s a long season. I know myself, it’s not typical for me to do that. Get ready for it to (be) fixed in the future.”
Avdija has played in all eight games so far this season and averaged 20.5 minutes per game, which is seventh on the team. He’s averaged six points and 4.9 rebounds per contest, as he continues to try and evolve his game.
“His defense has been great,” coach Wes Unseld Jr. said postgame. “Give him a lot of credit. His one-on-one defense and physicality, his ability to switch and guard and keep guys in front has been good.”
But there are still the lapses for Avdija where he’ll make a mistake.
He mentioned due to his rehab over the summer, he wasn’t able to shoot as much as he’d like to or add as much strength as he would’ve been able to. In the early parts of the season, he’s looking to add strength and drop a few pounds to make himself lighter on the floor.
He’s shooting just 29.4% from 3-point territory this year, and with Davis Bertans out “week-to-week” and Corey Kispert still working his way into the NBA game, there exists a need for improved 3-point shooting
All of that comes with the approach for Avdija, one that he’s working on every night. Wednesday’s game gave an up-close look at the progress he’s made and how far he still needs to go.
“I just went to the locker room and I changed my approach,” Avdija said of his improved third quarter. “I was like, ‘Alright, time to make up for it. Time to be more aggressive, time to be more focused.’ It’s all in the head. For me, just to change the approach and be more aggressive.”