Whatever you make of Washington Wizards TV analyst Drew Gooden’s commentary and analysis, the former number four pick dishes out some occasional insights. Take Washington’s Wednesday night win against the Orlando Magic. After play-by-play announcer Justin Kutcher enlightened us to the heavy heart Deni Avdija was playing with by giving us some backdrop on the importance of Yom HaShoah to Israelis/Jewish brethren, Drew served up the following nugget:
“Deni had high expectations coming in,” Gooden said. “There were folks talking about him possibly being a number 1 pick.”
Right, he was. And we believed those folks. Some of us did, anyway. “Shades of Luka Doncic,” we were told during the pre-draft process. And when Deni fell to us at number 9, we agreed with ESPN’s Mike Schmitz when he projected:
“I think this is going to be the steal of the draft, to be honest, I think Deni Avdija, when we look back five years from now, we’re going to see a guy who could be the best player even to come out of this draft.”
The best player to come out of the draft fell to us at No.9! But then the regular season commenced and what was projected stayed in the far off future. Because the early snatch of Deni didn’t quite project greatness. It felt like we were duped. Not by Deni—he’s figuring it out. No, we were duped into overweighting what the draft gurus opined. To their credit, scouting/predicting player’s upside is an inexact science. But when terms like ‘best player,’ which is generally unambiguous, is used, then the hype energizes the fanatics.
Tempering the high praise, Deni told everyone to calm down:
“Listen, I’ll tell you honestly, I don’t like to be compared to anybody. I think each player has his own path, and each player has his own skills, and things he does good. I just want to be the best Deni I can be. I just don’t want people to compare me to anybody. I respect everybody, but I just want to be me.”
But what did
I we do? Compare him to players that were selected before or after him, those players that were faring better than he at the highest level of professional basketball. Being disappointed at Deni’s—ummm—shaky start, “we could have had Tyrese Haliburton/Tyrese Maxey/Immanuel Quickley” some thought.
But if we had just listened to what Deni said, we could have learned he was coming to put his nose to the grindstone to work on becoming the best Deni. And that would have led to viewing his game not as the “best player in draft”/ generational talent, but in the way we do with most rookies, with the tones and tics customary to the right of passage.
I apologize for not doing that, Deni. Henceforth I shall view it for what it is. And with that in mind, it was great to see a solid performance. 16 points, 2 assists, and 5 rebounds in the last outing, the rookie is starting to figure it out. I have the highest of hope that by time Mr. Durant and Mr. Harden comes to Washington to win Russell Westbrook a ring, Deni will be a pivotal cog in Washington’s unstoppable offense.
Here’s to Deni’s future. Keep it going.