The Wizards‘ decision to trade Rui Hachimura this week was partly motivated by a desire to create a larger role for Deni Avdija, writes Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. Avdija was a lottery pick in 2020, and Hughes notes that his importance to the team is greater than ever now that Hachimura is gone.
“When we really looked at what we needed was to get Deni more responsibility, more opportunity to play,” general manager Tommy Sheppard explained in an interview with NBC (Twitter link).
Avdija has started 30 of the 45 games he has played this season, but his numbers aren’t spectacular at 8.1 points, 6.0 rebounds and 2.6 assists per night. Hughes suggests that Avdija may handle the ball more often with Hachimura gone, and he might see more time at power forward than small forward, which could be beneficial given his 27.5% shooting percentage from three-point range. Hughes notes that Avdija attempted just one three-pointer in Tuesday’s win at Dallas, but attacked the basket more frequently and shot a career-high 11 free throws.
There’s more on the Wizards:
- The ankle injury that has Kristaps Porzingis out of action for at least the next two weeks comes at a crucial point of the season for the Wizards, Hughes states in a separate story. Porzingis is unlikely to play again before the February 9 trade deadline, and the team is running out of time to determine whether the current roster is good enough to earn a spot in the play-in tournament.
- With free agency and the trade deadline both looming, Kyle Kuzma‘s future in Washington is uncertain, but he says in an interview with Josh Robbins of The Athletic that he’d gladly re-sign with the team this summer if he gets the right offer. “They showed me love,” Kuzma said of the Wizards. “They have allowed me to have a platform to show my game and show the league I’m not just a role player. I’m someone that’s arriving right now. That’s the biggest thing for me.”
- Mavericks guard Spencer Dinwiddie, who was notably unhappy with the locker room chemistry during his time with the Wizards, took a shot at his former team after Wednesday’s game. “For them, it’s a showcase,” Dinwiddie told Callie Caplan of The Dallas Morning News (Twitter link). “They’re over there trying to get paid, not trying to play winning basketball. For a team that has real aspirations and has an MVP, went to the conference finals last year, we have to be better to a man.” Kuzma took to social media to answer Dinwiddie’s claim after the Wizards narrowly beat the Mavs, tweeting, “The funny thing is they don’t play winning basketball.”