With a year of NBA experience under his belt and a new head coach with ideas of how to expand his offensive role, there is a good deal of anticipation among fans about what 2020 first round pick Deni Avdija can produce in his second season. But with less than one month until that second season begins, Avdija is still operating under limitations stemming from the ankle injury he suffered in April.
Avdija, 20, fractured his right ankle during a game against the Warriors on April 21 and was cleared during the summer from a weeks-long rehab. The rehab, though, affected his offseason enough that the Wizards feel he is not yet up to speed in terms of conditioning.
At the moment, Avdija has been held out of scrimmages with teammates in the lead-up to training camp, which opens on Tuesday.
"We'll ease Deni in and continue to monitor day-to-day," general manager Tommy Sheppard said.
"He's doing everything full speed, he just hasn't been jumping in the scrimmages quite yet. I think a lot of that is just being overly cautious to make sure there's no setbacks."
Speaking of setbacks, Sheppard indicated Avdija dealt with them during the offseason. When he was explaining how Avdija was prevented from joining the team in Las Vegas during Summer League for informal workouts, Sheppard suggested not everything went perfectly smooth.
"There were just a couple of opportunities that were taken away from him this summer due to either protocols or a setback injury-wise where his leg wasn't 100 percent to his liking and to our liking," Sheppard said.
The reference to protocols was likely about the Wizards' Summer League team having an outbreak of the coronavirus that postponed their opening game. With multiple players testing positive, Avdija showing up could have put him at risk.
Sheppard insisted Avdija's current restrictions are purely out of caution. He is expected to play in preseason games, though likely with a minutes restriction to start.
"When you haven't had a whole lot of playing time and a lot of 5-on-5 or anything, it's not something you want to throw him into when everybody else is ahead. We'll ease him in and I think that's the wise thing," Sheppard said.
Once Avdija does get up to speed, Sheppard envisions him being able to impact the team more than he did as a rookie last season. Though he will have to "earn his minutes," per Sheppard, Avdija should also have a better opportunity to develop as an on-ball play-maker on a roster with more evenly distributed roles and more space from the 3-point shooting they added.
The Wizards hope Avdija is on the cusp of a big season that sees him take a leap in his development. They just aren't in a rush to get him going 100 percent right from the jump.