Offense has been difficult to come by for the Wizards in recent games, but that was not the case in the first half of their win over the Detroit Pistons and the main contributor to that was second-year forward Deni Avdija. He had 17 points and seven rebounds by halftime en route to a career-high 21 points.
Those 17 points in the first half helped the Wizards build a 17-point lead and that would later come in handy, as the Pistons charged all the way back to pull ahead before Washington regained the momentum and finished off the win. Avdija got hot early, hitting six of his first eight shots, including three from long range.
"He had a nice rhythm," head coach Wes Unseld Jr. said. "He was playing aggressively downhill, really good in pick-and-rolls as a scorer and playmaker. I think he got a little fatigued, I ran him a bit too long, but I liked that group that was out there."
Avdija, 21, could have scored more than 21 points if it weren't for a few missed opportunities around the rim, a common theme for him at this stage in his development. He continues to adjust to NBA rim protectors, still only 127 games into his career.
Friday was the fifth time in seven games Avdija has reached double-figures in scoring. That follows a stretch of three games in which he went scoreless and shot a combined 0-for-10.
His scoring tends to come in bunches, which could be a sign of inexperience, as he learns what it takes to achieve consistency at the NBA level. It may also indicate how his confidence fluctuates based on how he is playing.
Avdija is now averaging 7.9 points per game while shooting 42.6% from the field and 31% from three. The field goal percentage is up from his rookie year when he shot 41.7%, while his 3-point percentage is a few ticks down from the 31.5% he hit last season.
Avdija, though, believes his "percentages are lying," as he is increasingly confident in his shot and believes they do not indicate how good of a shooter he can be.
"I think the percentage will go up over time. I'm putting in a lot of work, I'm shooting almost every night and I'm going to keep believing in my shot. I'm not staying away or afraid to shoot. That's the most important [thing], is just me being focused and believing that every shot can go in," he said.
While Avdija carried the offensive load in the first half, Kristaps Porzingis scored 11 points in the fourth quarter to polish off the win. He has now played 10 games with Avdija and is seeing continued improvement from the 2020 first round pick.
"As the game was going, his confidence was growing and he looked really comfortable out there. He's having those kind of glimpses where he's really, really good and comfortable out there. Now his job is to be more consistent with those moments and good games and put that all together and keep going as a player," Porzingis said.
The Wizards have nine games remaining this season, as they continue to monitor the development of their young players. Though Avdija is still finding his way in many respects, Friday was a good sign he's heading in the right direction.