Deni Avdija

Wizards Notes: Point Guard, Avdija, Beal, KP, Defense

After evaluating which point guards had the most success and fit in best this season with the Wizards, general manager Tommy Sheppard said this week that he has a good sense of what sort of player the team will be targeting this offseason to fortify the position, according to Jackson Filyo of

“I think we need somebody that is a pass-first point guard; somebody that will be able to contain the dribble on the defensive end and help us keep people out of the paint,” Sheppard said. “Those are some of the prerequisites we are going to be looking for.”

It remains to be seen whether the Wizards’ optimal path for acquiring a starting-caliber point guard will come via free agency, the trade market, or even the draft. Sheppard left the door open to all three possibilities, noting that one of the biggest keys of the offseason will be exercising patience and waiting for various markets to develop.

“There is going to be buyer frenzy once you get to the draft,” the GM said, per Filyo. “There is so little money this summer in the marketplace for free agents. There are going to be a lot of teams that want to shuffle. There are going to be some teams that do a little bit on the side and there are going to be teams that do complete restructuring. To know ahead of time what our needs are going to be, where we can fill those needs and then being patient to get the best possible deal – that’s not a challenge like I am worried about, that’s just something we embrace.”

Here’s more on the Wizards:

  • In his end-of-season press conference, Sheppard expressed enthusiasm about the idea of Deni Avdija playing for Israel in EuroBasket this offseason, referring to those contests as “high-level” games. “I believe he will get more out of that,” Sheppard said. “Being one of the key players for Israel will give him the kind of pressure we want him to have that probably doesn’t exist in Summer League.”
  • Sheppard also expressed confidence that Bradley Beal and Kristaps Porzingis, who have yet to play together, will complement each other well. “One of the easiest problems I have to solve is talent playing with talent,” Sheppard said, according to Filyo. “That works itself out. I think Bradley Beal and Kristaps Porzingis will be great in the two-man game. I think both of them are creative with the ball. Both of them know how to score, both of them have great court vision. “
  • The Wizards showed improvement on defense near the end of the 2020/21 season and at the start of ’21/22, but ultimately ended up with only the NBA’s 25th-best defensive rating this season. Personnel changes and strategy tweaks could help upgrade the club’s performance on that side of the ball in ’22/23, writes Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington, noting that Sheppard referred to the defense as something that will be a “focus” this offseason.
  • Josh Robbins of The Athletic takes a look at why the Wizards couldn’t maintain their momentum after getting off to a 10-3 start and what’s next for the club.

Wizards Notes: Beal, Avdija, Offseason, Porzingis

Wizards star shooting guard Bradley Beal will become an unrestricted free agent this summer, should he decide not to pick up his $36.4MM player option for the 2022/23 season. Washington president of basketball operations Tommy Sheppard appears to be optimistic that Beal will stick around long-term with the team that drafted him, per Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington.

“I feel every indication he’s given me is that he wants to be here moving forward,” Sheppard said of Beal’s future with the Wizards. “I stick to the 10 years of confidence I have in the relationship we’ve had. It’s a lot of time, a lot of equity and a lot of conversations. I feel that we’ve shown this is a place we can build around him. I think he’s shown to the community here that when he’s healthy he’s one of the best players at his position. Those are hard to come by.”

The 28-year-old Beal, a three-time All-Star, was limited to just 40 games this year due largely to a left wrist injury that ultimately required surgery. He averaged 23.2 PPG, 6.6 APG and 4.7 RPG this year.

There’s more out of D.C.:

  • Wizards swingman Deni Avdija expressed excitement for being able to hone his game during the first normal, healthy offseason of his NBA career, writes Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. There was no training camp or summer league due to the pandemic during the 2020 offseason, and the 21-year-old was recovering from an ankle fracture in the 2021 offseason. “I know what I need to do better,” Avdija said. “Just finishing the season like that gives you motivation and energy. You know you can make plays, you know you can help the team win. I feel like just taking the next step.” Hughes notes that Avidja closed out the year with an uptick in his output. He averaged 12.6 PPG, 5.8 RPG and 3.6 APG across his last 16 contests of the year.
  • Following a disappointing 2021/22 season in which they missed the playoffs and play-in tournament, the Wizards must deal with a variety of personnel issues in the offseason, Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington writes in a separate piece. Hughes identifies the free agent fate of Beal as the biggest hurdle confronting Washington in the offseason. The next priority, should Beal return, will be finding a long-term solution as the team’s starting point guard. Hughes expects the Wizards front office to consider trade and free agency options over drafting a point guard. Hughes also anticipates that Washington will look to shore up its defense and long-range shooting.
  • New Wizards center Kristaps Porzingis expects the team to compete for the playoffs next year, writes Ava Wallace of the Washington Post. Porzingis also posits that he himself has only reached 60-65% of his ceiling, and hopes to boost that level next year. After shooting guard Bradley Beal went down with a wrist injury in February, the team ultimately finished with a 35-47 record and missed the play-in tournament. “This summer is a long one, and also I’m fresh,” the 26-year-old big man said of his offseason health. “I’m feeling great. I could play right now. That’s an exciting thing for me, and I’m really looking forward to doing some work, getting some tan and coming back next season with batteries fully charged.”

Wizards Notes: Player Development, Hachimura, Porzingis

Whether the Wizards push hard for a play-in spot down the stretch or resign themselves to a lottery berth and vie for draft positioning, developing their young players will be a top priority the rest of the way, writes Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington.

As Hughes outlines, if youngsters like Deni Avdija, Rui Hachimura, Corey Kispert, and Daniel Gafford thrive in the second half of the season, that will give the Wizards more options in the offseason — they could decide to build around those players or could try to trade one or more of them for a more established player.

Avdija, who is averaging 7.5 PPG on the season, has looked good as of late, scoring double-digit points in all three games since the trade deadline and grabbing a career-high 15 rebounds in Monday’s win over Detroit. However, Hachimura’s developmental process may have hit another temporary snag during Monday’s victory.

As Hughes writes in a separate NBC Sports Washington story, Hachimura left the game in the first half due to a right ankle sprain. Head coach Wes Unseld Jr. said after the game that he’s hopeful the sprain isn’t too severe, but it still might make sense for Washington to hold out the third-year forward until at least after the All-Star break.

Here’s more on the Wizards:

  • Unseld said on Monday that there’s hope Kristaps Porzingis will be able to make his Wizards debut before the All-Star break (Twitter link via Hughes). Washington plays in Indiana on Wednesday and Brooklyn on Thursday, so we’ll see if Porzingis – who is day-to-day with a right knee bone bruise – is available for either of those games.
  • Although general manager Tommy Sheppard insisted a few weeks before the trade deadline that the team felt no need to move Spencer Dinwiddie, it was obvious something was “dramatically off-kilter,” writes Josh Robbins of The Athletic. Dinwiddie, who struggled to produce alongside Bradley Beal, never seemed comfortable with his role on the team, Robbins adds, noting that the point guard was “oddly passive” and probably didn’t have the ball in his hands enough.
  • Within that same story at The Athletic, Tim Cato considers what Porzingis can bring to the Wizards, suggesting the big man has reemerged as a strong defender when healthy this season and is no longer an obvious target for switches. However, Porzingis hasn’t been a reliable outside shooter in 2021/22, and his frequent injury-related absences resulted in some awkward readjustment periods when he’d return to the lineup after missing several games, says Cato.

Wizards Rumors: Beal, Simmons, Avdija, Hachimura, Bertans

We already published one collection of Wizards-related rumors today, examining the team’s interest in Domantas Sabonis and Spencer Dinwiddie‘s availability, among other topics. However, a deep dive into Washington’s deadline plans from David Aldridge and Josh Robbins of The Athletic covers a few additional bases, necessitating another roundup of notes and rumors from out of the nation’s capital.

Aldridge and Robbins, like other reporters, have heard no indications that the Wizards are considering trading star Bradley Beal, but the sources they spoke to were less certain about Beal’s intentions going forward.

Multiple league sources told The Athletic that the veteran guard remains conflicted about his future, torn between wanting to remain loyal to D.C. and being uncertain about whether the Wizards can surround him with championship-caliber talent.

Beal has been frustrated by the team’s gradual slide down the standings this season, and sources close to him suggest he wouldn’t automatically reject the idea of being traded, according to Aldridge and Robbins. However, he hasn’t asked to be dealt and his preference is still to remain with the Wizards, who want to continue building around him.

Here are a few more highlights from The Athletic’s story on the Wizards:

  • While Beal is among the Sixers‘ targets in a Ben Simmons trade, Philadelphia isn’t willing to include Tyrese Maxey or Matisse Thybulle along with Simmons in an offer for Beal, sources tell Aldridge and Robbins.
  • If the Wizards were to trade Beal, it would likely signal the beginning of a teardown and a restart for the franchise, which owner Ted Leonsis seems adamantly opposed to, per The Athletic’s duo. “I don’t see them doing that because I think the owner would prefer not to go through the pain,” one rival team executive said. “They’ve got the right people in place (in the front office), but (Leonsis) doesn’t have the stomach for it.”
  • The consensus around the NBA is that most of the veterans the Wizards have made available, including Dinwiddie, Montrezl Harrell, and Thomas Bryant, don’t have enough value on their own to net significant returns. At least one of Deni Avdija or Rui Hachimura would probably have to be included if Washington wants to take a bigger swing. One league executive who spoke to The Athletic described Avdija and Hachimura as potential “starting-caliber players,” but said talent evaluators generally don’t view them as future All-Stars.
  • In order to move Davis Bertans, who is under contract through 2025, the Wizards would likely have to either attach an asset or take back an equally bad contract, per Aldridge and Robbins. “It feels tough (without attaching a pick),” one executive said. “Maybe they can take back a similar contract that doesn’t have the player option year. But, yeah, hard to move.”

Wizards Rumors: Sabonis, Grant, Beal, Bryant, Harrell, Dinwiddie

A number of people around the NBA think the Wizards will go “big-game hunting” at the trade deadline in an effort to ensure Bradley Beal remains happy with the situation in D.C. ahead of his upcoming free agency, Michael Scotto of HoopsHype said on his latest podcast.

Scotto identified Pistons forward Jerami Grant and Pacers center Domantas Sabonis as two potential targets to watch for the Wizards. Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report mentions the same two names in his look at Washington’s deadline options, referring to Sabonis as a player who has emerged as a “significant” target for the Wizards.

According to Fischer, there’s a belief Beal has signaled plans to re-sign with the Wizards in the offseason, and there has been no indication the team is willing to discuss him in trade talks on or before February 10. However, having slid down the standings since a 10-3 start, the club appears to be in the market for an impact player in order to help “solidify Beal’s standing” in Washington.

Here’s more on the Wizards:

  • One source with knowledge of the situation tell Bleacher Report that Beal hasn’t actively encouraged the Wizards to acquire Sabonis, but word around the league is that the Wizards star would welcome the opportunity to play with the big man, Fischer writes. The Kings and Pelicans are the other teams believed to have serious interest in Sabonis, per Fischer’s sources.
  • The Pacers‘ front office liked Rui Hachimura heading into the 2019 draft and considered Corey Kispert in the 2021 lottery, according to Fischer, who notes that at least two of Hachimura, Kispert, and Deni Avdija would probably have to be included in any package for Sabonis. The Wizards would also have to offer a player like Thomas Bryant or Montrezl Harrell for salary-matching purposes, plus possibly draft assets, and even that might not meet Indiana’s high asking price, says Fischer.
  • The Wizards have made outgoing calls to assess Harrell’s trade value, and rival executives believe they’re playing Bryant more lately in order to showcase him for a potential deal, writes Fischer.
  • Although the Wizards have made Spencer Dinwiddie available, his down year will make it more challenging to find a trade partner, per Fischer. “He needs the ball, he’s not good enough to have the ball, and he’s not a good shooter,” a Western Conference executive said to Bleacher Report.

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.”