אבדיה מול פורטר ג'וניור
Deni Avdija during a game between the Washington Wizards and the Chicago Bulls
Photo: Reuters
Deni Avdija during a game between the Washington Wizards and the Chicago Bulls

Washington Wizards are a bad fit for Israel's basketball star Deni Avdija

Opinion: Lead by selfish players who can't guard or play efficiently, it seems that the NBA team that drafted the Israeli rookie will not let him reach his full potential

Barak Haklai |
Published: 12.30.20 , 18:03
It is difficult to watch young, Israeli basketball superstar Deni Avdija play for the Washington Wizards in the NBA.
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  • It is not because the games are aired in Israel at pre-dawn hours, or that the stadiums are empty because of the coronavirus pandemic, or even because of the Israeli hooper's style of play.
    אבדיה מול פורטר ג'וניוראבדיה מול פורטר ג'וניור
    Deni Avdija during a game between the Washington Wizards and the Chicago Bulls
    (Photo: Reuters)
    We might be only a few games into the 19-year-old's NBA career, but we can already say with confidence that the Wizards are a bad fit for Avdija.
    Washington's decision to pick the former Maccabi Tel Aviv small forward at ninth place in the draft surprised everybody. Most analysts and fans were expecting Avdija to be drafted fourth overall by the Chicago Bulls, or even by the Cleveland Cavaliers, Atlanta Hawks, Detroit Pistons or New York Knicks.
    It is not because the teams mentioned (except for maybe Atlanta) are far better than the Wizards, but because these teams do not have a single star player, let alone two like Washington (Bradley Beal and Russell Westbrook).
    Avdija's entourage reportedly hoped for him to be drafted eleventh by the San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs would have been a wonderful team for Avdija, with their long-serving coach Greg Popovich known for liking international players.
    גרג פופוביץ' גרג פופוביץ'
    San Antonio Spurs coach Greg Popovich
    (Photo: AFP)
    The team's game philosophy is similar to that found in European basketball, their player development, patience, overall prestige and numerous accolades would have made Avdija feel right at home.
    Now take everything written in the last sentence and flip it 180 degrees and what do you get? The Washington Wizards. A failing team with no identity, loaded with green players and no clear game or player development plan.
    The worst part is that Avdija has been relegated to a supporting role for two of the team's main stars. Stereotypical American basketball.
    After Avdija had been drafted, many pundits in Israel said the Wizards are a great opportunity for Avdija to shine since they are in the process of rebuilding the team. There was also a general sense that he will fit in well after being showered with praise by the team's management.
    The general consensus was that the Wizard's star player Russell Westbrook, who is mostly worried about his personal stats, will pass the ball and let Avdija reap the spoils.
    ראסל ווסטברוק ובראדלי בילראסל ווסטברוק ובראדלי ביל
    Russell Westbrook (L) and Bradley Beal
    (Photo: AP)
    In reality, Westbrook did pass the ball, but these were no flashy or smart passes, made after smashing head-on into the defense and causing all the other players to readjust themselves around the unexpected point guard.
    Another Wizards' star Bradley Beal, mad at Westbrook for also failing to assist him, refused to talk to the press after a 115:107 loss to the Bulls on Wednesday. The other problem is that Westbrook and Beal are not the only ones on the team not playing smart basketball.
    Other players have also started to become frustrated with not receiving assists, center Thomas Bryant decided that every time he gets the ball he shoots. To put it lightly, Bryant is not a shooter.
    But of course, Avdija is being held accountable for this sorry situation.
    He keeps playing his regressive style of basketball, staying mainly behind the three-point arc, refraining from cutting into the defense or, God forbid, ask for the ball. He is also trying to guard every player on the opposing team while playing for one of the worst defensive teams in the league.
    עומרי כספיעומרי כספי
    Omri Caspi playing for the Sacramento Kings
    (Photo: AP)
    When fellow Israeli Omri Caspi arrived in the NBA, the scouting reports said his shooting was spotty. So, what did Caspi do? Work on his shot to become one of the most efficient shooters in the league.
    Scouts were also skeptical of Avdija's shooting capability, but he worked hard and proved that he should not be left along behind the arc, shooting 53% from three.
    But he has so many other offensive skills he demonstrated during his time in Maccabi and the FIBA U20 European Championship. Now you see none of them, and we can start to worry they will wither away if he continues to focus on his shooting and not do anything else offensively.
    רוי האצ'ימורהרוי האצ'ימורה
    Rui Hachimura from the Washington Wizards
    (Photo: Reuters)
    Very soon, two other players on the team playing his position will become fully fit again: Davis Bertans, who scored 20 against the Bulls, and Rui Hachimura.
    If Avdija will not be able to make sure he has a stable spot in the starting five (now playing many minutes because of these two players' absence), in a couple of weeks this will become a problem.
    He needs to understand that at the end of the day, Americans only care about the point section of your stat sheet, especially if you were a high draft pick and considered one of the most promising players in that draft.
    If Avdija keeps scoring in the single digits, it will be very hard for him to develop in the league and make good on our, and his, expectations because he can do so much more.

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