Deni Avdija’s Fit With The Washington Wizards

AP Photo/Antonio Calanni

Deni Avdija is headed to the capital. The Israeli forward was selected with the 9th pick by the Washington Wizards, joining a roster full of international roots. Avdija joins a team still trying to figure out their future, commanded by a coach with NBA Finals experience. We’ll try to predict what Avdija can bring to the Wizards and how he impacts them going forward.


Deni Avdija is a forward with good size, who can do a lot of things on offense and defense. He can play on and off the ball, providing outside shooting, timely drives, and high IQ. He knows his strengths and limitations, and searches for the best for his team instead of forcing the issue. His added strength in the past few months helped him defending inside, to go along with good instincts defending off the ball and solid perimeter defense. Avdija compensates for the lack of elite athleticism with quick thinking and anticipation, reading plays before others. He can still get to the rim with force when he gains enough momentum.


Avdija’s vision and size allows him to be a good passer, be it in half court situations or on the break. He can see over defenders, anticipate rotations and read pick and rolls at a high level, finding the open teammate. Avdija has consistently improved as a passer, now being able to pass on the move or from stationary positions.


Avdija is mostly a three-point spot up shooter at this point. He can shoot off the dribble, but is a bit slow and has difficulties creating space from his dribble alone. But the improvement he has been showing as a catch and shooter is incredible, shooting with confidence and good mechanics. He rarely brings the ball down and releases at a high point, giving the defense problems to contest. He has also been working and evolving as a movement shooter, coming off screens and relocating to find an open shot.


Avdija knows how to get to the rim and how to finish once there. On pick and rolls or attacking closeouts, he uses his body to protect the ball and slide through defenses to score. His use of the inside hand and off-foot on finishes is great. He is also able to finish through contact and over defenders, although this is still a work in progress. Avdija drives mainly to his right, as he loses his handle or ends up with an unbalanced finish going left.


Avdija is a good on-ball defender. He compensates for slow feet with good recovery timing, using his body to negate the path to the rim. He has good upper-body strength, and is able to withstand strong guys inside. Avdija doesn’t react to shot fakes, stays vertical, and in control. Avdija is also really good coming from the help side, to block or alter shots.

Washington Wizards


Position1st Option2nd Option3rd Option4th Option
PGJohn WallIsh SmithRaul NetoCassius Winston
SGBradley BealTroy BrownJerome Robinson
SFDeni AvdijaIsaac Bonga
PFRui HachimuraDāvis Bertāns
CThomas BryantRobin LopezMoritz WagnerAnžejs Pasečņiks

Apart from Wall’s future, the Wizards roster is pretty much set. They added veterans Raul Neto and Robin Lopez this summer to a young group, where Avdija will fit in very well. With Wall back, this is a team that could be fighting for the 8th spot in the East, giving Avdija real responsibility and experience in his first year. There is a possibility that he starts the year on the bench, but sooner or later he will be moved to the starting 5, as his talent complements their two stars really well.


The Wizards will enter their 5th year with Scott Brooks in charge, trying to return to the playoffs after two straight years falling short. John Wall’s injury forced Washington to endure a small rebuild, but with the point guard back, they can fight to return to the best 8 in the East. Brooks likes to give his players freedom to play their game. He uses a free-flowing, fast offense, where the players have space to drive and cut, with shooters really spaced out.

Last year the Wizards ranked in the Top 5 of the league in shot attempts and seconds per possession, which shows their fast pace. They were eighth in 3-point percentage, but with low frequency, using mostly transitions, pick and rolls, and drives/cuts to finish. Avdija is someone who can fit this style, as a constant cutter, exploring the attention Beal, Wall and Bertans, as a shooter, receive. He can also knock down some outside shots and, as noted, the Wizards are a good team at that.


The Wizards like to fly around the court, with their players getting the ball in transition and occupying space to get easy baskets. Avdija will start moving as soon as the rebound is secured, sprinting down the court as a ball handler or being a passing option on the wing. He will be another weapon for Scott Brooks’ sped-up offense.


All the space the Wizards create with their offense leads to cutters appearing by themselves close to the rim. Avdija is great at this, knowing exactly how and when to cut, making the best out of the attention his teammates get. He can also drive with purpose, mainly to his right, and with the paint open and the momentum he gets going to the rim, we will get to see some spectacular finishes.

The way Deni can win inside position can also be explored by Scott Brooks. He is really good at keeping defenders on his back and creating angles to receive the ball and the Wizards spacing can provide him lots of opportunities for that.

Pick and Roll

As noted before, Avdija is a good PnR ball handler for his size. In past years, Brooks had guys like Oubre or Otto Porter handling the ball and playing the pick and roll, so we can assume that he will have Avdija do the same. Avdija can read defenses, see above defenders to deliver the pass, or go to the rim. It will be interesting when he plays as a 4, if he will be used as a screener and a roller. His ability to seal defenders and read double-teams on the ball handler may turn him into a weapon there.


Avdija is, at this moment, more of a stationary, catch and shoot type of shooter. I’m intrigued about how he would fare as a movement shooter, coming off screens or as a trailer. It seems to me like he could benefit from adding that to his game, especially within an offense that runs, moves and shoots as quickly as the Wizards do. His improvements as an outside shooter make me think he could take that step.


The Wizards defense last year was, to be kind, abysmal. They finished 29th in defensive rating and last in rebounding percentage. They were awful on that end of the floor, lacking rim protection, communication, and perimeter defense. Avdija can help with some of that, although he won’t be a savior. His ability to stay ready on the help side and block shots will be a plus, as will his size and upper body strength against bigger opponents next to the rim. Deni won’t change the Wizards’ defense, but impact it a little bit for the better at least.


Deni Avdija can help the Wizards immensely. He is NBA-ready, has the skills, intelligence and physical profile to succeed and plays in a position of need for the Wizards. He can play fast and can grow so much playing with the backcourt of Wall and Beal, that will create so many opportunities and space for him.

His IQ on his cutting, driving and passing is elite and will fit the Wizards’ style. They have mostly cutters, who share the ball and try to find the open man. The space created will help Avdija not only to get easy baskets, but also for some open outside shots. He will immediately be one of the best defenders on the team, even if he’s not a great defender. As a team defender and continuing to grow guarding the ball, Avdija brings positive traits to a Wizards team who were so bad on that end last year.

There are questions with Avdija, of course. His lack of athleticism, clumsy off-hand dribble, difficulties creating separation off the dribble, and slow feet on quick first steps will create problems in the NBA. But he already showed he can overcome that, with his high basketball IQ, feel for the game, and by knowing his limitations and working to reduce them. He will do what he knows he is capable of and work within the system, giving his team a much-needed piece. There are no doubts in my mind that Avdija clearly fits the Wizards and can contribute now.

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