Depending on your mood, the 2022-23 campaign might feel like
another ho-hum year for the Washington Wizards.
Last season, Washington faded to a 35-47 record after starting
10-3, and finished under .500 for the fourth season in a row. The
Wizards have ultimately returned to a state of mediocrity, which
defines a franchise that has surpassed 45 wins just twice since
So far, the team has not made a serious move to launch itself
out of the Eastern Conference's bottom rungs. In the 2022 NBA
Draft, the Wizards selected Wisconsin's Johnny Davis at No. 10
overall to provide a long-term solution in the backcourt. They also
made one minor trade I liked that added Monte Morris
and Will Barton to the mix, and they're reportedly in on the
Donovan Mitchell sweepstakes at some level according to Shams
Charania of The Athletic.
Unless a Mitchell trade materializes, though, we've likely seen
the major moves from Washington already. This means the franchise
is relying on second-year head coach Wes Unseld Jr. and a young
core to keep pace in the constantly improving East.
Rui Hachimura and Deni Avdija didn't light the world on fire in
2021-22. That said, the former No. 9 draft picks are two of the
leaders in Washington's prospect group, and, despite rocky seasons,
they showcased the small jumps that fans should be hoping for.
Hachimura played just 42 games last season and didn't make his
season debut until Jan. 9 after a mysterious off-court absence.
While we can piece together that it was due to personal reasons,
Hachimura never detailed the issues and the Wizards respected his
privacy. Ultimately, the fact that he felt comfortable enough to
return to play is a victory for Hachimura, and we can hope he's in
a better, happier place in his life.
That absence places Hachimura's abbreviated season into some
context. He logged a career-low 22.5 minutes per game and started
just 13 contests, with Washington going 16-26 in his appearances.
As winter turned to spring (and the Wizards fell out of
contention), his playing time increased to 30.5 minutes per game in
six April matchups.
In his short season, Hachimura gave us a revelation in the form
of a scorching 44.7% clip from three-point range — nearly a 12%
leap from 2020-21.
Those shots, quite frankly, were not difficult. Hachimura was
often left alone in transition to spot up, and rarely faced hard
closeouts from defenders. They dared him to make threes, and
Hachimura did. Nearly all of his long-range came from a standstill;
117 of his 123 attempts did not require a dribble. But Hachimura
also looked confident shooting it. He didn't need to gather himself
or fake a jab step.
Hachimura was able to knock down some off-balance shots where he
had to rush. He was also featured in rare two-man actions with guys
like Avdija (see the third clip).
It's absolutely fair to question if Hachimura's efficiency is
repeatable. Free-throw percentage can be another indicator of
shooting potential, and he shot just 69.7% from the charity stripe
in 2021-22. I wouldn't expect another mid-40s year from distance,
but if Hachimura is even hovering around the upper 30s, that's
significant for his offensive impact.
When he attacks a closeout, Hachimura likes to pull up for the
long two-pointer. It's an undesirable shot in general that he
didn't perform well with last season (35%, per Cleaning the Glass),
and it's a poor way to use his power as a driver.
Hachimura finished 75% of his at-rim attempts last season, in
the 98th percentile among forwards. A solid chunk of those makes
was off of cuts and transition finishes, but approximately 46% were
Hachimura isn't a speedster or leaper; he makes up for it with a
stoic frame and impressive balance. Hachimura can accelerate to the
rim and simply shrug off opposing defenders, and has even shown the
ability to finish high, as exemplified in the above drive against
Christian Wood. He can beat the slow-footed switching or drop bigs
of the league and bully the smaller mismatches.
This should be the roadmap for Hachimura right now. If he can
reach a consistent, threatening perimeter presence and pair that
with an imposing driving game, he'll be a weapon as a complementary
scorer who can bend defenses. Hachimura offers little as a passer,
but, fortunately, he has a prospect partner who can make up the
Avdija played all 82 games in his second season, and though he
only started eight times, he had more of an entrenched role in the
Wizards' rotation. His fit is almost a polar opposite from his
fellow ninth pick in Hachimura.
Avdija's box score numbers and assist rates don't jump off the
page, but he graded out extremely well in BBall Index's Passing
Versatility (99th percentile) and Passing Creation Quality (92nd
percentile) metrics. I'd like to focus on the first one, which aims
to diagnose NBA players who have different levels of passes in
Here's a highlight clip chock-full of Avdija's different passing
reads this season. He's perusing in the pick-and-roll, whipping
passes to the weak side, curling around screens and kicking out, or
driving and dumping off. The vision, creativity and dexterity are
apparent. Avdija sometimes gets too ambitious, leading to
turnovers, but for a young player, that's not a problem as he
continues to acclimate to the league.
And the playmaking potential isn't even the signature skill with
Avdija right now. As Stephen Cagan (a.k.a. NBA University) says,
Avdija is a K.B.I.F. king:
Avdija is 6-foot-9 and 210 pounds with a strong base and quick
feet and hips. He spent over 20% of the time guarding players in
BBall Index's top tier of usage. Avdija graded out in the 88th
percentile for the database's Matchup Difficulty metric, 98th
percentile in Positional Versatility and 94th percentile in Role
Versatility. Washington placed a ton of responsibility on the
shoulders of a second-year forward, and for the most part, Avdija
lived up to the task. He's also one of the better defensive
rebounders in the league at his position.