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Deni Avdija’s consistent defensive effort should earn him more minutes on a Wizards team that’s struggling on defense

Avdija was the focal point of this week’s Bleav in Wizards podcast.

Washington Wizards v Utah Jazz
Avdija throwing himself around on the defensive end

Eran Soroka of Sport5 in Israel and the Osim NBA Podcast joined the Bleav in Wizards podcast this week to discuss Deni Avdija’s recent stretch of inspired play. Soroka is an NBA analyst who follows the EuroLeague and Israeli league extensively, giving him a lot of familiarity with Avdija’s game. This allows him to comment on Avdija’s growth across his entire professional career as well as anyone following the NBA.

The discussion largely focused on Avdija’s defensive impact, why he hasn’t always gotten consistent minutes this season, what it would take for him to eventually be a starter, and his long-term ceiling. Soroka also provided some really interesting insight into what it’s like for Avdija to come to a new country during a pandemic and try to acclimate to a new country and new league while also dealing with injures. All at 20 years old.

The discussion led to an interesting point (around 20:00) regarding Wes Unseld Jr.’s substitution patterns that I hadn’t previously considered. Typically, assistant coaches in the NBA are responsible for helping inform the head coaches when it’s time to make a substitution and help “keep to the script.” It’s then the head coach’s prerogative to deviate from that plan based on how the game is playing out. Unseld’s considerable experience as an assistant may be leading him to think about substitutions in a more regimented way than a long-tenured head coach might.

We obviously can’t say definitively that is what’s going on, but it could be a factor in Unseld’s seeming unwillingness to deviate from their established pecking order for minutes (unless driven by injury or foul trouble). Given that the players who would likely lose time to Avdija — Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Kyle Kuzma — have NBA championship experience, it might also make Unseld reluctant to go away from them in favor of a sophomore. Both players have also hit clutch shots in crunch time, and he may not want to sacrifice that element of it until Avdija takes another jump forward on offense.

Let us know in the comments if you think Avdija has earned more minutes and who those minutes should come from.


Episode Breakdown:

  • Was the 10-3 start a fluke? - 3:00
  • The Wizards’ defensive issues and lack of an identity - 8:00
  • Who is the leader for the Wizards? - 13:00
  • Avdija’s playing time - 15:00
  • Which center Avdija fits best next to - 18:00
  • Wes Unseld Jr.’s substitution patterns - 20:00
  • Avdija’s struggles to finish around the rim - 22:00
  • Avdija’s energy and effort vs other player’s championship experience - 24:00
  • EuroLeague size and competition compared to the NBA - 27:00
  • Avdija adjusting to the NBA’s style of play and officiating - 32:00
  • Avdija’s postgame comments and attitude - 36:00
  • Avdija’s long-term ceiling and player comparisons - 40:00
  • The Wizards’ pace and style of play - 45:00
  • NBA’s Covid-19 issues and it’s impact on the Wizards - 52:00
  • The Athletic article about players’ unhappiness with the offense - 54:00
  • Evaluating the NBC broadcast team - 60:00