Deni Avdija trying to find other ways to help as shots aren’t falling

Avdija trying to find other ways to help as shots aren’t falling originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

For a guy who has only played 45 games in the NBA, Wizards rookie Deni Avdija has already been through quite a bit in his brief career. There have been several iterations of his team and himself as a player.

Despite no summer league or training camp, early on Avdija was playing well and with confidence. Then, he was replaced in the starting lineup. Now, he’s back and putting up some of his best numbers yet.

In his last five games, Avdija is averaging 9.4 points and 8.8 rebounds. The caveats would be that he shot just 36.2 percent from the field and 25.0 percent from three, and that the Wizards lost four of those five games. He’s now shooting 42.0 percent overall and 31.5 percent from three on the season.

Avdija still has a long way to go to reach his full potential, but lately as his shots haven’t been dropping he has found other ways to contribute. Like, with rebounding. As this five-game stretch comes after a 16-game run in which he averaged just 3.7 rebounds per game.

“I’ve been trying to be more aggressive. I feel like I’m a good rebounder,” Avdija said. “I can rebound the ball and help my teammates out sometimes when they need me coming from behind them. That’s what I do. It’s all a part of being more aggressive and just wanting to help the team when I can.”

Avdija wasn’t a big-time rebounder in the EuroLeague, where he built his resume as an NBA draft prospect. He averaged a solid, but not extraordinary 6.8 rebounds per 36 minutes for his career.

Avdija, though, could help the Wizards in that area moving forward. He’s got good size at 6-foot-9 and is most often playing off the ball on offense. The Wizards also can continue to improve their rebounding as a team. They rank 15th in the NBA this season in total rebounding after placing 28th last year, but they are still only average.

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Another area where Avdija is trying to make an impact is on defense. In Monday’s loss to the Raptors, Avdija was tasked with guarding All-NBA forward Pascal Siakam.

Siakam had 22 points against the Wizards, including 18 in the first half, but against Avdija he was just 2-for-6 and had two turnovers in 8:21 of floor time.

“I’m coming in and competing, taking the challenge every night,” Avdija said. “For me, to guard the best player is an honor on the other team. I’m really fighting, trying to help the team close down the best players. I’ll keep doing that.”

Avdija’s long-term ceiling will be predicated mostly on things other than defense and rebounding. He was a top-10 pick mainly because of his offensive potential with his ability to handle the ball and make plays at his size, particularly in transition.

But it’s going to take time for Avdija to realize those skills – he’s only 20 years old. For now, he may have to find other things he can do, just like he has lately.


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