Unseld Jr. excited to help Rui and Deni grow

Deni Avdija and Rui Hachimura

Wizards owner Ted Leonsis explained that the move to hire Wes Unseld Jr. as the franchise's 25th head coach was all about making the team better. 

One of the Wizards' paths toward contention is getting further development from their two top-10 draft choices in Rui Hachimura and Deni Avdija. Both have shown flashes of brilliance over the last year, and in Hachimura's case two years, but they'll have to become even better for the Wizards to take the next step. 

Unseld Jr. watched both players from afar while an assistant with the Nuggets and looks forward to helping them reach their respective ceilings. 

"I think Deni's got a lot of potential," Unseld Jr. said Monday. "I'm extremely happy in getting the opportunity to coach a guy like that. I think there's a lot of versatility there, obviously. But I think he's got a lot of physical tools, obviously struggled a little bit with the shooting. I think he's a shooter. He's going to make shots and we'll come back to the average.

"But for him, it's just let the game slow down a little bit," Unseld Jr. said. "You know, COVID, so many restrictions the teams had, injuries. There wasn't a lot of on-the-floor practice time, and with that, you didn't get the necessary reps. So I think it's it's a little unfair to really categorize the guy right now, but just from afar, I think he's got tremendous potential."

Avdija's rookie season, as unprecedented as it was in the first place, was cut short due to an ankle injury in late April. He's expected to make a full recovery and hopefully build on his experiences last season. 


In Hachimura's case, he got his first taste of playoff basketball in Year 2 and continues to get some run as the key player on Japan's Olympic team. Unseld Jr. didn't see him often in the western conference, but he's happy to be on the young forward's side now. 

"I think [Rui's] another young player who fits our core," Unseld Jr. said. "I think it really helps elevate our talent. In talking to Bradley, talking to Russell, I think both guys look at these two individuals as guys who can elevate our overall platform. The whole question is, well, how do we bring them along? And I think they really take it upon themselves to be part of that process. Rui is another talented young man who honestly gave [Denver] fits this season. So I think it's kind of a blessing to be able to coach him instead of play against him."