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Does Wizards pick Deni Avdija's shot need a mechanical fix? originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
Whether Wizards first round pick Deni Avdija ultimately reaches his full potential may depend on whether he can develop an outside shot, as his 27.7 three-point percentage and 55.6 free throw percentage in the EuroLeague suggest he needs plenty of work in that area. That made it unsurprising when earlier this month in a predraft press conference he mentioned how he was in the process of adjusting his shot mechanics.
Avdija didn't suggest it was a major change, but he did say it's currently evolving.
"It will take some time to adjust, for sure. But yeah, I'm for sure making changes, making my shot quicker, making my footwork quicker and more efficient," he said. "[Releasing] a little bit faster is going to help me for sure."
Avdija also expressed confidence he will improve his shot, noting his youth and work ethic. The Wizards also do not seem to be overly concerned, either. General Manager Tommy Sheppard explained how the team will approach working on Avdija's shot once they get him into their facility to take a closer look.
"You certainly think anybody can get better, but that's not always the case. He's somebody who I think can get better," Sheppard said.
"We're going to let our player development coaches take their time with him and really observe his shot and see what the best mechanical tweaks can be and slowly integrate that. You don't want to just try to first day in the gym 'hey this is what we're going to do, we're going to break your shot all the way down.' I don't think that helps people's confidence. But I don't think there's a major overhaul ahead."
Sheppard said the Wizards feel good about Avdija's trajectory as a shooter because they know he will work hard to improve his jumper. But with the quick turnaround to this season, with training camps starting later this month and the regular season in late December, there isn't much time to implement changes. If they do decide to adjust his shot in any significant way, that could be a delicate process without the usual allotment of several months before the season begins.
The free throw percentage is not a great indicator of future success. As Kevin O'Connor of the Ringer wrote of Avdija this summer: "He shot 56 percent on 363 free throw attempts since 2017, per RealGM data. There is little historical precedent for a player with such poor free throw numbers to ever become a reliable shooter."
Given that red flag, it may be natural for longtime Wizards fans to draw the comparison to 2011 Wizards first round pick Jan Vesely, as he too was a terrible free throw shooter and that was in hindsight a major warning sign he would fail in the NBA. Don't write Avdija' off that quickly, however.
Vesely entered a completely different situation when it came to the coaching staff. The Wizards have since expanded their player development operation with Dave Adkins leading the charge. Those in the organization who have been around since 2011 still wonder what could have happened to Vesely's career if he had the same tutelage.
Avdija will have more resources to develop with individual focus from coaches, a practice facility and a G-League team. The foundation will be there, it will just be up to him to put in the work to get the results.