Brooks thought Avdija handled move to the bench well originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
After starting in the first 16 games of his career, rookie wing Deni Avdija was moved to the bench Monday night in favor of struggling sharpshooter Davis Bertans.
The move had more to do with “activating” Bertans, as head coach Scott Brooks put it before the 105-101 victory, but it was still a move that surprised many given how well Avdija has played during his rookie season.
Washington’s coaching staff expected Avdija to handle the move well, and that’s exactly what happened.
“He handled it like we knew he would handle it,” Brooks said after the game. “He’s a great kid that’s tough, that works hard. He’s gonna be a starter in this league for 12-15 years.”
Avdija impacted the game for the Wizards in just about every way besides knocking down jump shots. He went 2-for-9 from the field and 0-for-5 from three for four points, but grabbed 10 rebounds, provided a playmaking boost with Russell Westbrook sitting out and played solid defense on Zach LaVine.
In a four-point win, Avdija was a +15 in 28 minutes of playing time.
“I had a great conversation with him, he was excited about the opportunity,” Brooks said. “Everything’s new for him. This is a new city, this is a new arena to play in, and this was a new opportunity to play a different role. I thought he stepped in, he rebounded, he competed on defense.”
Brooks wouldn’t commit to what the starting lineup would be for the next game and stated beforehand how the change isn’t permanent. He thought Bertans needed a boost and Avdija could handle a different role on the fly, and he was right.
“I liked the fact that he competed,” Brooks said. “[Avdija] was battling with [LaVine], his offense is going to come. He’s a good shooter, he’s not going to shoot that bad and maybe his legs are a little tired too. I just like the fact that he stayed with it. He didn’t play well the last few games but he stayed with it and gave us a chance to win this game with his toughness.”
With Westbrook and Bradley Beal dominating the ball when the starters are on the floor, Avdija isn’t afforded the same playmaking opportunities he would if he came off the bench. While everyone loves to start, there’s value in being able to give your team what it needs in a variety of roles. In turn, Avdija would be able to develop the aspects of his game that got him drafted in the top 10.
For Brooks and his staff, however, the most important thing for the rookie moving forward is what he showed in camp to earn that starting spot.
“That’s how he got in the starting lineup, it was toughness,” Brooks said. “He has to hang his hat on toughness and I thought he did that tonight.”
Tune into NBC Sports Washington at 6 p.m. Wednesday for full coverage of the Wizards’ next game against the Toronto Raptors.