Deni Avdija

Pincus’ Latest: Pacers, Mavs, Cavs, Blazers, Hawks, Avdija

As they weigh their options on the trade market in the next few weeks, the Pacers will be seeking shooting and players who fit head coach Rick Carlisle‘s system, sources tell Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report.

As Pincus observes, this could make the Mavericks an intriguing trade partner for the Pacers. Reports have indicated that Dallas has interest in Myles Turner, and Carlisle may value some of his former players more than other teams would. According to Pincus, several rival executives had considered the Mavs the favorites to land Turner using a package that includes Dwight Powell as a salary-matching piece, plus either Jalen Brunson and/or Dorian Finney-Smith.

Turner’s health complicates matters, however. The Pacers’ big man is expected to be sidelined through the February 10 trade deadline due to a foot injury, which will likely temper enthusiasm among his potential suitors. Additionally, league sources tell Marc Stein (Twitter link) that the Mavericks have recently backed off their pursuit of Turner as their defense has moved into the NBA’s top five.

While Turner may no longer be a top target, it’s still possible the Mavericks will consider moving Brunson or Finney-Smith for a roster upgrade, especially if they’re concerned about their ability to sign either player this summer, when they’ll reach unrestricted free agency. According to Pincus, there’s a sense around the league that Finney-Smith probably won’t get more than the full mid-level exception, whereas Brunson is “believed by many” to be seeking a four-year, $80MM deal.

Here’s more from Pincus:

  • Rival teams don’t get the sense that the Cavaliers are making Isaac Okoro or Kevin Love readily available, Pincus says. That doesn’t mean that either player – especially Love – is untouchable, but it sounds like they’re not being actively shopped.
  • There’s an expectation that the Trail Blazers will pursue deals that help them shed a few million dollars in salary to get under the luxury tax line, according to Pincus, who suggests Robert Covington, Jusuf Nurkic, and even Larry Nance Jr. are among Portland’s potential trade candidates. The Blazers gave up a first-round pick for Nance last summer.
  • Some executives around the NBA believe the Hawks acquired a first-round pick from New York in the Cam Reddish trade in an effort to improve a potential offer for Sixers star Ben Simmons, writes Pincus. Philadelphia wasn’t interested in Reddish, Pincus adds.
  • Multiple teams have interest in Wizards forward Deni Avdija, per Pincus. If Washington looks to upgrade its roster, it’s safe to assume Avdija is someone potential trade partners will ask about.

Wizards Notes: Hachimura, Harrell, Kuzma, Avdija

The Wizards still don’t know when Rui Hachimura will be able to return, but he’ll accompany the team on its upcoming road trip for the first time this season, writes Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. Hachimura has been out of action since the start of the season due to personal issues and he’s working his way back into game shape.

Coach Wes Unseld Jr. said Hachimura is still limited with regard to contact, but the team hopes he will be ready for 5-on-5 play in the “next couple weeks.” Hachimura has been taking part in 1-on-1 drills against player development coaches, and Unseld hopes he can begin playing 2-on-2 and 3-on-3 games with teammates during the road trip.

“It’s really good to have him back, man,” Anthony Gill said about Hachimura traveling with the team. “His spirit in the practices is unbelievable, his spirit just around the facility is amazing. He’s going through his own personal things, but every day he steps in here you wouldn’t be able to tell because he just carries that professionalism on his shoulders and he’s just a great all-around teammate.”

There’s more on the Wizards:

  • Unseld Jr. believes Montrezl Harrell‘s recent drop in production has occurred because opponents are changing the way they’re guarding him, Hughes notes in a separate story. After being acquired from the Lakers in an offseason trade, Harrell was among Washington’s best players during the first quarter of the season. “Teams are switching and then trying to front him,” Unseld Jr. said. “They’re not letting him catch with as much ease because they know the impact he can have when he catches the ball in the post. I think there’s a concentration to keep him off the offensive glass. So, some of it is, yes, the coverages we’re seeing with him.”
  • Kyle Kuzma has been placed in the NBA’s health and safety protocols, but he’s not experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, tweets Josh Robbins of The Athletic. Unseld Jr. said Kuzma is “feeling fine,” adding, “Our biggest concern is his health — obviously, the health of our staff, players.”
  • Deni Avdija moved into the starting lineup Saturday and will see an increased role until Kuzma can return, Robbins states in an Athletic story. Gill could also see more minutes, along with Davis Bertans and Corey Kispert.

Wizards Notes: Hachimura, Bryant, Dinwiddie, Caldwell-Pope

The slumping Wizards are due for lineup changes when Rui Hachimura and Thomas Bryant are ready to start playing again, writes Josh Robbins of The Athletic. Washington was one of the NBA’s early-season surprises with a 10-3 start, but has gone just 4-7 since then and has fallen to the middle of the Eastern Conference pack.

In a recent radio interview, general manager Tommy Sheppard said Hachimura, who is away from the team on a personal absence and hasn’t played yet this season, could begin practicing after a three-game road trip ends Wednesday. Sheppard expects Bryant, who is recovering from a torn ACL, to be back at practice within two weeks.

Once they’re available, Robbins expects coach Wes Unseld Jr. to make adjustments to his rotation. Davis Bertans is likely to see his minutes reduced, along with rookie Corey Kispert. Kyle Kuzma, who has been playing power forward in Hachimura’s absence, will probably see more time at small forward, and Deni Avdija will have a smaller role.

There’s more from Washington:

  • The Wizards are being cautious with Spencer Dinwiddie, who will be rested tonight in the second game of a back-to-back, Robbins tweets. The free agent addition is only 11 months removed from ACL reconstruction surgery on his right knee.
  • Even though Washington lost to the Raptors on Sunday, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope delivered his best game since being acquired from the Lakers in an offseason trade, notes Andrew Gillis of NBC Sports Washington. Caldwell-Pope delivered 26 points on 8-of-9 shooting, even though he said he felt less than 100%. KCP is one of four Wizards who haven’t missed a game this season. “You just gotta try to gut it out,” Caldwell-Pope said. “You’ve got to try to find that energy from somewhere and try to finish the game. Just do your job and do what you can do out there. Just give it all you’ve got until you can’t give it no more. We talk about effort so much, it’s a big part of how we play the game.”
  • The Wizards haven’t lost three straight games this season, and Unseld is eager to see how they respond after two straight blowouts, per Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. “Early in the season, we bounced back from these stretches,” he said. “This has kind of been the longest duration where things are kind of tenuous for us, so it’s certainly a test. We have no choice. We’ve gotta pull together, we’ve gotta dig ourselves out and we’ve gotta find a way.”

Eastern Notes: Avdija, Heat, Pacers, Nash

Wizards forward Deni Avdija is emerging as a reliable shot-blocker for the team, Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington writes. Avdija doesn’t have a reputation as a rim protector, but has recorded 18 blocks in 20 games, surprising even himself.

Wow,” Avdija said. “I’m just taking pride, to be honest with you. I’m stepping onto the court, trying to guard the best guys, trying to help the team to really protect the paint.”

As Hughes notes, Avdija recorded just 15 blocks in the 54 games he played last season. Washington has harped about the importance of playing better defense this season, a philosophy that Avdija and his teammates have bought into. The team ranks fourth in the Eastern Conference at 14-9.

Here are some other notes from the East:

  • Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel examines whether the Heat could be in danger of burning out their veterans. Players such as Kyle Lowry, P.J. Tucker and Dewayne Dedmon have been tasked with carrying bigger workloads in the absences of Jimmy Butler (tailbone), Bam Adebayo (thumb) and others.
  • The Pacers are hitting the reset button after losing four straight games, James Boyd of The Indianapolis Star writes. Indiana lost to Miami on Friday 113-104, had an off day Saturday, then had an intense practice on Sunday. “I thought we had a great practice (Sunday),” Malcolm Brogdon said. “It was honestly like a training camp practice. We went hard (Sunday), and I think that’s what we needed. We just gotta come out and compete, man. We gotta play with desperation on a high level.”
  • Nets head coach Steve Nash believes the Eastern Conference is as deep as it’s ever been, Peter Botte of the New York Post writes. In addition to Brooklyn, the East has the defending-champion Bucks, the wild-card Heat and several other teams that could compete for a championship. “The simple answer is it’s about as strong as the East has been for a long time,” Nash said after his team lost to the Bulls on Saturday. “There aren’t any ‘gimmes,’ so to speak. The West is terrific and has some great teams at the top, but the East is deep. Every night, it seems like a battle. I think it’s good for the balance of the league and for this kind of depth and parity. It feels like since the ’90s, we haven’t seen that, but it’s been exciting to see such a competitive Eastern Conference so far.”

Southeast Notes: Tucker, Kuzma, Avdija, Harrell, Magic

New starting Heat power forward P.J. Tucker has grown comfortable taking on the less-heralded dirty work necessary for contending clubs to thrive, writes Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel.

“If you want recognition, then my job isn’t a job for you,” Tucker said. “I don’t do highlights. I don’t care. It doesn’t matter to me.” A 36-year-old veteran, Tucker most recently served as a key three-and-D contributor on the 2021 champion Bucks before signing a two-year, $15MM deal with the Heat in free agency. In 13 games with Miami, Tucker is averaging 6.2 PPG and 6.5 RPG. The 8-5 Heat are currently the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference.

“He’s just a winning player,” Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra said of Tucker. “You’ll notice it when he’s on the other team’s best player defensively. But it’s the block-outs, it’s the rotations, it’s the protect-side defense, and then offensively just getting people open constantly. And he does it in every way possible, whether he’s screening pick-and-roll basketball or off-ball screening. He’s just elite in helping guys get open.”

There’s more out of the Southeast Division:

  • Wizards forwards Kyle Kuzma and Deni Avdija are building a quick chemistry both on the hardwood and beyond it, per Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington“I think that he does a great job defending, that’s the No. 1 thing I love about him,” Kuzma said of Avdija. “He’ll mix it up, he’ll defend. He’s coachable, you can talk to him, he receives things. He’s a very sweet kid, a very sweet kid.” Surprisingly, the new-look Wizards have emerged with an Eastern Conference-leading 9-3 record to start the season, and the team’s depth around All-Star shooting guard Bradley Beal is a big reason why. “He’s very professional, he loves the game and likes to work extra,” Avdija said of Kuzma. “Guys that like to work and want to do extra shots or extra work, I’m always getting along with them because I’ve got that mindset, too.”
  • New additions Montrezl Harrell and Kyle Kuzma have brought a relentlessness to an improved Wizards team, writes Spencer Davies of Basketball News. “They were around in September, so we didn’t wait ’til the first official day of training camp to say, ‘Hey, let’s start putting in work,'” new head coach Wes Unseld Jr. said. “Those guys were trying to play together, do a small side of [pickup] games, get workouts [in], finding ways to be on the floor and build that chemistry. So it’s paid off for us thus far.” Kuzma explained why he and Harrell appear to be helping contribute to wins right away. “We know how to win in this league. Trezz has always been an underdog his whole entire career being a second-round pick and fighting his way through the G League and all the way to being the Sixth Man [of the Year].”
  • Though the rebuilding 3-10 Magic are currently the lowest-seeded team in the Eastern Conference, Austin David of the Orlando Sentinel contends that the team’s young players are showing plenty of promise. Orlando may be struggling to score consistently, but intriguing prospects like point guard Cole Anthony, rookie wing Franz Wagner and even big man Mohamed Bamba have given fans plenty to watch thus far. “We’re a young team that won’t take anything from anybody,” an optimistic Bamba said. “We just want to be a smash-mouth team, making winning plays for not only themselves, but for each other. It’s truly a domino effect.”

Wizards Notes: Beal, Avdija, Harrell, Bryant

COVID-19 forced Bradley Beal to miss the Olympics, but he’s feeling better after going through a few months of “funk,” writes Ben Golliver of The Washington Post. Along with improved health, Beal is enjoying the Wizards‘ 6-3 start as he hopes the conversation will focus more on the playoff race rather than his upcoming contract decision. Washington has offered Beal a four-year extension valued at more than $180MM, but he could make about $50MM more by waiting for free agency next summer.

“There are situations where it can loom over your head like, oh, damn, what am I going to do, where am I going to go, who am I going to sign with?” Beal said. “I don’t think I have that problem. I’m here. This is what I’m making. I’m making a lot of money, and I’m comfortable with doing that, and I could stop today and be good (financially).”

Beal has repeatedly expressed his loyalty to the organization and his desire to spend his career with one team. The drawback has been a lack of competitiveness by the Wizards, who haven’t advanced past the second round of the playoffs since Beal joined the team. That’s the goal he expressed recently to team chairman Ted Leonsis.

“I’m not sitting here and saying we’re going to hold up the Larry (O’Brien NBA Championship Trophy), but I want to be able to have those opportunities,” Beal said. “I want to be able to see that that’s reachable.”

There’s more from Washington:

  • Deni Avdija doesn’t mind having players challenge him on defense, per Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. The second-year forward is a deceptively strong defender, ranking second on the team in opponents’ field goal percentage at 36.2%. “I think I was a good defender even last year, but last year I didn’t get the most respect. I’m just, it’s my heart, you know? I’m not the most athletic. You see people bring me in pick-and-roll all the time. They think they can attack me, they think they can score on me, and it’s fun,” Avdija said.
  • Montrezl Harrell, who was acquired from the Lakers over the summer, says it’s easy to understand why his numbers have improved, Hughes tweets. Harrell is averaging 18.0 points and 9.7 rebounds in 30.4 minutes per night after playing just 22.9 minutes per game last season. “Montrezl Harrell is on the floor, brother,” he said. “That’s the biggest difference.”
  • With Thomas Bryant expected to return from an ACL tear next month, Hughes posted a video of him at practice, noting that he appears to be running without discomfort (Twitter link).

Wizards Pick Up Options On Hachimura, Avdija

The Wizards have picked up their 2022/23 rookie scale contract options on forwards Rui Hachimura and Deni Avdija, per Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington (Twitter link).

Selected with consecutive ninth overall picks in the 2019 and 2020 drafts, respectively, Hachimura and Avdija are among the intriguing lottery picks with which Washington hopes to construct its supportive core around All-Star Bradley Beal and $54MM point guard Spencer Dinwiddie.

A 2019/20 All-Rookie Second Teamer, Hachimura holds averages of 13.7 PPG and 5.8 RPG across two years of NBA action. Avdija averaged 6.3 PPG and 4.9 RPG during his 2020/21 rookie season.

Hachimura, currently entering his third season in the NBA, will be eligible for a contract extension in 2022, while Avdija would be extension-eligible in 2023 if the Wizards exercise his 2023/24 team option next year.

Southeast Notes: Wizards Preview, Avdija, Cooper, Hornets Injuries

In his ongoing series of team previews, John Hollinger of The Athletic writes that the Wizards might not be a better overall team this season than they were in 2020/21, but he thinks they’re in a decent position to build around star Bradley Beal going forward.

By moving John Wall for Russell Westbrook, and then trading Westbrook to the Lakers, the Wizards acquired multiple players on smaller deals with less guaranteed money, thus gaining financial flexibility for 2022/23.

Hollinger identifies one area the team should definitely be improved: three-point shooting. The Wizards were dead last in three-point attempts per 100 possessions last season, even with renowned shooters Beal and Davis Bertans. New additions Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (.410 3PT%), Kyle Kuzma (.361), and Aaron Holiday (.368) all shot better than the Wizards’ team mark (.351) last season, and rookie Corey Kispert was considered one of the best pure shooters in the draft.

However, Hollinger thinks the team might regress defensively, as Bertans and Montrezl Harrell are both poor defenders who figure to see a good chunk of minutes together.

Hollinger projects the team to finish 38-44, 10th in the East, but thinks they’ll have their work cut out for them to actually hit that mark.

Here’s more from out of the Southeast:

  • Second-year forward Deni Avdija made his long-awaited return from a fractured ankle in Saturday’s preseason game, writes Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. The Wizards are high on Avdija and he’s expected to have more play-making opportunities this season, Hughes adds.
  • Hawks rookie Sharife Cooper is having an impressive preseason, according to Sarah K. Spencer of The Atlanta-Journal Constitution. Cooper, the 48th pick in the draft, is on a two-way contract, and coach Nate McMillan likes what he’s seen so far, per Spencer. “I love the energy that he’s bringing,” McMillan said of Cooper. “He’s scrappy. He’s playing scrappy basketball out there. He’s trying to make a statement. He’s stepping up, and he’s not pacing himself.”
  • In two separate tweets, the Hornets announced Terry Rozier sprained his ankle and will be re-evaluated later in the week, while Gordon Hayward and Mason Plumlee are both out for tomorrow’s game at Miami due to health and safety protocols.

Southeast Notes: Avdija, Dinwiddie, Ball, Heat, Magic

Wizards forward Deni Avdija, who fractured his right ankle in April, participated in 5-on-5 scrimmages on Monday for the first time during his recovery process, tweets Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. The team is hoping Avdija will be able to return to the court during the preseason, perhaps as soon as Saturday.

Meanwhile, another player coming off a major injury – Spencer Dinwiddie – is making a strong early impression with his new club. Wizards head coach Wes Unseld Jr. said on Tuesday that he has been “pleasantly surprised” with how Dinwiddie looks this fall, suggesting that the veteran point guard appears “he’s back to normal” following his partial ACL tear last December (Twitter link via Ava Wallace of The Washington Post).

Here’s more from around the Southeast:

  • LaMelo Ball looks fully healthy after dealing with a wrist injury at the end of last season, according to Roderick Boone of The Charlotte Observer, who notes that the Hornets have inserted Miles Bridges into their starting lineup this season at least in part to take advantage of the chemistry between him and Ball.
  • John Hollinger of The Athletic was surprised that the win-now Heat weren’t more willing to cross the luxury tax line this offseason, pointing out that they could’ve given free agent guard Kendrick Nunn the same deal he got from the Lakers and remained below the hard cap. As Hollinger outlines, Miami could avoid the tax this season and next, but project to be a taxpayer in 2023/24 if Tyler Herro is extended.
  • The Magic started rookies Jalen Suggs and Franz Wagner alongside veterans Gary Harris, Terrence Ross, and Wendell Carter in their first preseason game on Monday, but head coach Jamahl Mosley said that won’t necessarily be the same group that opens the regular season as the team’s starting five. “The way I try to look at it in this instance was, because it’s an extension of training camp, I’m just going to try looking at different lineups,” Mosley said, per Josh Robbins of The Athletic. “So it was treating it similar to a practice: We’d have different lineups going against one another, different combinations.”

Wizards Notes: Bryant, Avdija, Sheppard, Unseld Jr.

Wizards center Thomas Bryant is expected to return “sometime in December,” according to general manager Tommy Sheppard, Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington tweets. Bryant suffered a torn ACL in January after appearing in 10 games last season. Sheppard’s comment aligns with the projected timeline for Bryant’s recovery. When Bryant returns, he’ll look to regain his starting job. Daniel Gafford will start the season at center, backed up by Montrezl Harrell.

We have more on the Wizards:

  • Second-year forward Deni Avdija will have some limitations heading into training camp, Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington writes. He’ll be held out of scrimmages with teammates in the lead-up to camp. Avdija fractured his right ankle in April. “We’ll ease Deni in and continue to monitor day-to-day,” 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.”
  • Sheppard said he focused on improving the team’s shooting with his offseason moves and that will give new coach Wes Unseld Jr. plenty of late-game options, Jackson Filyo of the team’s website relays. “We constructed this roster to make sure we have plenty of shooting at every position,” he said. “When you look at competition, it’s going to be whoever is hot that game is going to finish games…Competition for minutes is a healthy thing.”
  • Unseld is energized by the versatility on the roster, according to Filyo. “You have so many options. You can play small, you can play big, you can bump guys down, you have multiple ballhandlers who can create and finish,” he said. “Obviously, the amount of shooting we can put on the floor is a tremendous dynamic to have. It gives you a lot of flexibility. It also allows you defensively to do a lot of things.”