Deni Avdija

NBA Postpones Friday’s Wizards/Bucks Game

The game between the Wizards and Bucks that was scheduled to be played on Friday in Milwaukee has been postponed, the NBA announced tonight (Twitter link).

It’s the sixth consecutive postponement for the Wizards, who haven’t played since January 11. The team was cleared to return to the court to practice on Wednesday, but remains significantly shorthanded.

Deni Avdija, Davis Bertans, Troy Brown, Rui Hachimura, Ish Smith, and Moritz Wagner are out due to the NBA’s health and safety protocols, while Thomas Bryant (ACL) and Russell Westbrook (quad) are sidelined due to injuries, leaving just eight available players on the roster (Twitter link).

According to the NBA’s announcement, the game is being postponed due to the number of unavailable players for the Wizards, contact tracing affecting players on the roster, and the club’s lengthy layoff from practicing.

As Fred Katz of The Athletic wrote earlier tonight, Bradley Beal and the Wizards had been planning to lobby for a postponement of Friday’s game, since they felt that potentially playing with the league-mandated minimum of eight players after not practicing for the last week would result in a high risk of injury for the active players.

The next game on Washington’s schedule is Sunday in San Antonio. The hope is that the Wizards will have enough available players – and enough practice time between now and then – to be ready to play that game.

The NBA has now postponed 17 contests this season. The full list is here.

Southeast Notes: Beal, Hornets, Borrego, Avdija

Now that Bucks All-Star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo is no longer going to be a 2021 free agent candidate for the Heat, Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel wonders if Miami might pivot to eventually adding Wizards shooting guard Bradley Beal, who holds a $37.26MM player option for the 2022/23 season. After swapping out point guard John Wall for All-Star Russell Westbrook in the offseason, the Wizards are off to a 1-5 start.

The 6’3″ Beal, 27, is a two-time All-Star and could be a great fit on the Heat as both a secondary ball-handler and an off-ball cutter. He is currently averaging a career-best 31.2 PPG on 47.8% shooting from the field and 87.7% shooting from the charity stripe. Though his three-point shooting through the first six games of the season is a low 27.3%, he is a career 37.9% three-point shooter, averaging 6.0 triples per contest over the course of his career.

There’s more out of the Southwest Division:

  • The Hornets have had to adjust their rotation given the absence of starting center Cody Zeller, and their transition to a faster small-ball lineup has proven effective thus far, according to Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer.
  • In a separate piece, Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer wonders how long Hornets head coach James Borrego will ride his current starting lineup. Starting point guard Devonte’ Graham is struggling mighty with his offense, shooting 25% from the floor, while rookie draft selection LaMelo Ball could be a candidate for a promotion.
  • Wizards rookie wing Deni Avdija showcased his offensive skill set in his best game of the young season, a 130-109 Washington victory over the Timberwolves on Friday, according to Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. Avdija, the No. 9 pick in the 2020 draft, scored 11 points on 4-of-7 shooting from the floor, and recorded seven rebounds, three assists, and three steals. Hughes contends that it Avdija appears to have made progress in his ability to read the floor. “I love playmaking,” Avidja said. “I like making my teammates involved. I’m looking for them at every opportunity.”

Southeast Notes: Heat Free Agency, LaMelo, Collins, Avdija

With Giannis Antetokounmpo now signed to the Bucks on a record $228MM five-year extension, the Heat could pivot their 2021 free agency focus to alternative options, such as star forwards Kawhi Leonard and Blake Griffin, writes Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel.

Leonard can opt out of the contract he signed with the Clippers in the summer of 2019, and has sounded non-committal to L.A. beyond this season in recent interviews, in Winderman’s view. Meanwhile, though injuries limited Griffin to just 20 games last season, the 6’9″ power forward made the All-Star team for the Pistons in 2019.

The 2020 Eastern Conference champions should have significant cap space next summer to add a high-level player, though they will need to address the restricted free agency of sharpshooter Duncan Robinson.

There’s more out of the Southeast Division:

  • Though rookie Hornets point guard LaMelo Ball has struggled through some growing pains in this early season, Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer suggests that the No. 3 overall pick should see more playing time from coach James Borrego. Ball is averaging just 15.5 minutes so far. “It’s tough. There are a number of guys that are capable of handling minutes,” Borrego said. “LaMelo’s got to do his part. It’s my job to do what’s best for this club.
  • Hawks power forward John Collins may have rejected an extension offer in excess of $90MM prior to the season, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said on his Hoop Collective podcast. The high-scoring big man will become a restricted free agent in the summer of 2021, and could command a similar number – or a higher one – on the open market.
  • Rookie Wizards swingman Deni Avdija is getting the first-year treatment from league referees, per Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. Head coach Scott Brooks contends that Avdija is receiving quick whistles from league officials. Early foul trouble limited Avdija to just 15 minutes of action in a loss to the Magic yesterday. “It’s just part of the rookie initiation,” Brooks commented. “I [reviewed the plays] at halftime… I didn’t think two of them were fouls.”

Southeast Notes: Heat, LaMelo, Magic, Avdija

John Hollinger of the Athletic reviewed the 2020 offseason for the Heat and previewed the 2020/21 season for the club, which opened tonight against the Magic in Orlando. Hollinger notes that the team’s 2020 offseason seemed to prioritize future assets over building for the immediate present, despite the fact that Miami made the Finals this season.

The Heat will be able to carve out about $30MM in available cap room for the 2021 offseason, Hollinger projects. Hollinger also expects the team to use its roster, loaded with expiring contracts and intriguing players on cheap contracts, to improve ahead of the playoffs.

There’s more out of the Southeast Division:

  • The Hornets have long been waiting to add a new young player capable of generating the kind of buzz a high-upside prospect at the level of rookie point guard LaMelo Ball, the No. 3 pick in the 2020 draft, according to Andrew Carter of The Charlotte Observer. Hornets head coach James Borrego was skeptical that Ball, the youngest son in a famous family, could enthusiastically buy in to the team concept he was hoping to build before a workout convinced him otherwise. “Just a genuine spirit, an authentic spirit,” Borrego said. “He would ask as many questions as we would ask.”
  • The Magic are hoping to take the next step in their evolution as a playoff club with the chemistry developed through years of continuity, despite the absence of recently-extended forward Jonathan Isaac, according to Roy Parry of the Orlando Sentinel.
  • The Wizards were apparently so set on drafting rookie forward Deni Avdija that they at one point almost made a deal with the Bulls to move up to the No. 4 pick, but determined the cost was too high, per Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. The Wizards did not anticipate that Avdija would last long enough to be available at No. 9.

Wizards Notes: Westbrook, Avdija, Neto, International Players

The Wizards enjoyed their first look at Russell Westbrook, who made his preseason debut Saturday night, writes Ava Wallace of The Washington Post. He contributed eight points, seven rebounds and three assists in 17 minutes and helped Washington outscore the Pistons by 11 points while he was in the game.

Wizards coach Scott Brooks was encouraged after watching Westbrook and Bradley Beal on the court together for the first time in a game situation.

“I like the fact that they were looking for other players, not just playing back and forth,” Brooks said. “Russell’s going to find whoever’s open; he’s going to make the right play. And Brad’s the same way.”

There’s more from Washington, D.C.:

  • First-round pick Deni Avdija is making a strong bid to be the team’s starting small forward on opening night, Wallace adds in the same piece. The 19-year-old got his second preseason start Saturday and played 32 minutes. “He’s definitely working his way to being a starter one day,” Brooks said. “Don’t know when that will be; it might be Wednesday night. He’s playing hard, he’s tough, he has great size, and he’s going to make us a better team. … He’s making a good case (to start) — there’s no question.”
  • Point guard Raul Neto has been a surprising standout during the preseason, notes Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. The 28-year-old was brought in to improve the defense, but he scored 34 points in three preseason games. With Ish Smith as the primary backup to Westbrook, the Wizards may consider using Neto at shooting guard, Hughes adds. He played there for a while Saturday, taking minutes that normally would go to Jerome Robinson and Garrison Mathews.
  • With seven international players on their roster, the Wizards are tied with the Mavericks for the most in the league, Hughes writes in a separate story. In addition to Avdija, who is from Israel, and Neto, who hails from Brazil, Washington has Rui Hachimura of Japan, Davis Bertans and Anzejs Pasecniks of Latvia and Moritz Wagner and Isaac Bonga of Germany. “Those seven guys have the attributes we look for, not the passports we look for. It doesn’t really matter to me where you’re from,” general manager Tommy Sheppard said. “If there’s talent all over the world, it’s your job to go find it. It’s never intentional.”

Wizards Notes: Beal, Bertans, Lopez, Westbrook, More

Ensuring that Bradley Beal wants to remain in Washington was a top priority for the Wizards as they made their offseason moves, including the blockbuster trade that brought Russell Westbrook to D.C. So did the acquisition of Westbrook have an impact on Beal’s desire to stick with the team?

“Honestly, I haven’t even thought about that. I haven’t,” Beal said, per Fred Katz of The Athletic. “My biggest thing is win now, you know? I wanna win.

“I’m here under contract for this year, next year and a player option, too. So, it’s just a matter of, we gotta win. And the organization knows that. It’s up to me, too, so I can’t just sit here and … look at (general manager Tommy Sheppard) like he’s crazy. I have to go out and lead the team, put in the work and get better every day and bring the results.”

As Katz writes, the Wizards have a tricky tightrope to walk, as they focus not only on building a roster capable of long-term success, but also on winning enough in the next year or two to convince Beal that he doesn’t need to move to a new team to contend.

Here’s more on the Wizards:

  • Davis Bertans and Robin Lopez haven’t yet been able to join the Wizards for practice, tweets Ava Wallace of The Washington Post. Bertans was held up by visa issues, according to Wallace, who notes that the team also had one of its new players test positive for the coronavirus. There hasn’t been confirmation that the affected player was Lopez, but it sounds like that’s very possible.
  • The Wizards are counting on point guard Russell Westbrook, who is known for his competitiveness and tenacity, to help set the culture for their young roster, Wallace writes for The Washington Post.
  • Wizards head coach Scott Brooks said today that the starting small forward position will be “fluid,” with Troy Brown, Isaac Bonga, Deni Avdija, Davis Bertans, and Jerome Robinson all among the options there, per Fred Katz of The Athletic (Twitter link).
  • Brooks also said today that the Wizards are close to a decision on whether or not to participate in the NBA G League’s proposed Atlanta bubble. He believes there’s a good chance the Wizards will opt in, according to Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington (Twitter link).

Wizards’ Deni Avdija Signs Rookie Contract

Rookie forward Deni Avdija has signed his rookie contract with the Wizards, the team announced today (via Twitter).

The No. 9 pick in the draft, Avdija is in line for a four-year, $20.34MM deal, assuming he signs for 120% of the rookie scale amount, as virtually every first-round pick does. The contract, which will pay him $4.47MM in his rookie season, will be guaranteed for the first two years, with third- and fourth-year team options.

Avdija, who has spent the last three years with Maccabi Tel Aviv, won the Israeli League Most Valuable Player award in 2020. He averaged 12.9 PPG, 6.3 RPG, and 2.7 APG in Israeli League games, becoming the youngest MVP in league history at age 19.

Widely considered a probable top-five pick entering the November 18 draft, Avdija slipped to the Wizards at No. 9 and will now join a team led by John Wall and Bradley Beal that’s looking to make it back to the postseason in 2021. Washington now has a full 20-man training camp roster.

Draft-Night Rumors: Warriors, Pistons, Avdija, Baynes

Drafting James Wiseman won’t prevent the Warriors from looking to add another big man, according to Monte Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area, who reports (via Twitter) that Golden State is eyeing at least four different bigs. The team has its $17MM+ trade exception and the $5.7MM taxpayer mid-level exception available to acquire veterans later this week.

Here are a few more NBA draft-night notes and rumors:

  • It sounds like Detroit’s long-reported interest in Patrick Williams was legit. The Pistons made an effort to trade up to No. 3 in order to leapfrog the Bulls for Williams, but the Hornets didn’t budge, sources tell Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times (Twitter link).
  • Deni Avdija has a small buyout to get out of his contract with Maccabi Tel Aviv, as Bobby Marks of ESPN tweets. Avdija and the Wizards – who selected him at No. 9 – will pay that buyout. Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer adds (via Twitter) that he’s surprised by Avdija slipping to ninth — the Bulls and Cavaliers both considered the Israeli forward at No. 4 and No. 5, per O’Connor.
  • NBA executives fully expect Aron Baynes to leave the Suns in free agency, opening the door for No. 10 pick Jalen Smith to fill Baynes’ role as a stretch big, tweets Kevin O’Connor. According to O’Connor, the Pelicans are a potential landing spot for Baynes.

Central Notes: Fiserv Forum, Pacers, Avdija, Hayward

Bucks team president Peter Feigin has indicated that the club will not allow any fans into its home arena Fiserv Forum for the start of the 2020/21 NBA season due to strict indoor gathering restrictions in place due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to Jabari Young of CNBC. Once fans are allowed inside Fiserv, the arena will exclusively employ mobile ticketing and concessions ordering, per Feigin.

There’s more out of the Central Division:

  • Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files details how the Pacers have approached the 2020 draft while dealing with coronavirus pandemic-dictated hurdles. The club has used Zoom for weekly “town halls” as well as interviewing over 100 draft prospects. Though the league permitted teams to travel to see up to 10 individual player workouts, the Pacers opted to stay all-virtual this season, Agness notes.
  • The Cavaliers have deep organizational ties with international lottery prospect Deni Avdija. Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com wonders whether this could ultimately lead to Cleveland using the No. 5 pick in today’s draft to select the 6’9″ wing.
  • Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files tweets that there is “mutual interest” between Celtics forward Gordon Hayward, beloved for his college tenure at Butler, and the Pacers. The clearest path to adding the former All-Star would be a sign-and-trade, which would require Hayward opting out of his $34.2MM player option for the 2020/21 season.

Cavs Discussing No. 5 Pick With Knicks, Others

The Cavaliers are receiving interest in the No. 5 overall pick in the 2020 NBA draft, according to Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com, who reports that the Pistons (No. 7), Knicks (No. 8), and Celtics (No. 14) are among the teams that have engaged in discussions with Cleveland.

The Knicks just moved up from No. 27 to No. 23 in a trade with Utah and may try to package that pick with No. 8 in an attempt to improve their lottery pick, tweets ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. The Knicks and Cavs have been the two teams in the top eight most frequently connected to Dayton forward Obi Toppin, so it’s possible he could be the target on New York’s radar in a move up, though that’s not confirmed.

The Pistons, meanwhile, have been linked often to Florida State’s Patrick Williams. If he’s still on the board at No. 5, Detroit may have interest in moving up to land him — or to leapfrog Atlanta at No. 6 for Tyrese Haliburton, Fedor suggests.

According to Fedor, the Cavs have their eye on a number of players in the second tier of the draft, including Toppin, Haliburton, Deni Avdija, and Isaac Okoro, among others. Moving down to No. 7 or No. 8 could allow them to “declutter their options” while picking up an extra asset or two.

It’s unclear how interested the Cavaliers would be in moving all the way down to No. 14, which is Boston’s top first-rounder. Cleveland sees a drop in talent after the top 10 or 11 prospects in this year’s draft class, says Fedor. There has been some speculation about a possible Gordon Hayward trade involving the Cavs and Celtics, but it’s not clear if that’s something the two sides have even discussed.