NBA Draft: Deni Avdija looks to make history as Israel’s first-ever lottery pick

NBA Draft prospect Deni Avdija (Photo by TF-Images/Getty Images)
NBA Draft prospect Deni Avdija (Photo by TF-Images/Getty Images) /

Israeli star Deni Avdija could make history in the 2020 NBA Draft by becoming the country’s first-ever lottery pick.

There’s been a handful of Israeli-born players that have spent time in the NBA, but none have accomplished what Deni Avdija could in June (or whenever the 2020 NBA Draft will take place this offseason.

Avdija is currently the fifth-best prospect in the 2020 class according to ESPN, which would make him the first-ever Israeli to be a lottery pick in the NBA Draft. Avdija is also the top-ranked international prospect.

He joined ESPN on April 16 to announce his decision to make the jump to the next level.

Just five Israeli-born players have ever played in the association. Omri Casspi is the most notable Israeli to play in the NBA, having featured in over 500 games for seven different organizations. He now plays alongside Avdija at Maccabi Tel Aviv.

Avdija has the opportunity to make history for his country on the hardwood. This season for a Tel Aviv team who were contending for a Euroleague title before the league was suspended due to COVID-19, he played a limited role, averaging seven points, four boards, and 1.6 assists in 19 minutes per contest between the Israeli league and Euroleague.

Avdija has already become a household name though across his nation, leading Israel to back to back FIBA U-20 European Championships in 2018 and 2019, while being named the Tournament MVP last year after dropping 18.4 points per game. He was also the second-youngest player at the event.

There’s no doubt that he is very young and could be a long-term project for whoever ends up drafting him, but there’s a ton of potential at hand. The Euroleague is definitely the second-best league in the world to the NBA and although Avdija didn’t put up monster numbers, he also played a small number of minutes per night.

Scouting report

At 6-foot-9 and 225 pounds, he has outstanding length and athleticism while playing as a guard and small forward. But given his skillset, he profiles as a wing player because he has shown the ability to shoot it well from long-range and facilitate the basketball. Avdija did struggle a bit from three-point range in the Euroleague though, instead, generating a lot of his points from inside, using his quickness and nifty handles to get to the rim and finish.

He’s a solid rebounder too and quite strong for his age. In the Israeli league, he shot just under 40 percent from downtown compared to just 27 percent in the Euroleague. Better competition yes, but we have to remember he’s just 19. Avdija is getting crucial minutes in a very competitive league which is giving him the necessary experience for the next level.

Between last season and this season alone in the Israeli League, Avdija made huge strides. He played almost triple the number of minutes in 2019-20 compared to last year, scoring 12.3 points per contest compared to just 3.2 in 2018-19. His numbers took a substantial dip in the Euroleague, but then again, Avdija was playing a lot less.

Avdija will take time to develop

Unlike Luka Doncic who hit the ground running immediately after joining the NBA from Real Madrid in the Euroleague in 2018, it’s going to take time for Avdija to develop in the association. Doncic was playing almost three years in Spain before coming to the US, while Avdija hasn’t even played a full two years with Maccabi Tel Aviv. But the amount he has played professionally against top talent in Europe will definitely pay off when it comes to adapting to the NBA. He has a solid foundation of tools, it’s just a matter of improving them and getting more comfortable in his surroundings.

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I don’t expect him to be running for Rookie of the Year in 2021, but there is definitely a lot of promise in Avdija. As long as whoever drafts him is willing to be patient with the youngster’s development, then I do believe the Israeli wing could turn into a very solid NBA player. In the process, he could end up being Israel’s first NBA star in the next few years if he lives up to the hype.