Being the only NBA prospect able to demonstrate his improvement during the “Covid-19 virus time period” due to the restart of the Israeli League, Deni Avdija was clearly able to improve his stock. Playing for Israel’s powerhouse, Maccabi Tel Aviv, Avdija and earning a bigger role for of a variety of reasons including (injuries, Covid-19 restrictions that forced import players to not be able to travel to Israel) and he took advantage of it.
Avdija’s body looked a lot better. He bulked up during the hiatus, a sign that he just put his head down and worked, which shows a lot about his nature. But it wasn’t just his body that transformed. His game was better, his shooting form (which used to be a reason to worry) has changed a little bit, becoming more consistent, although he still needs some work on this aspect of his game.
What’s most important is the fact that he looked more aggressive than before. Having a more bulked body helped him drive harder to the basket and absorb contact, finishing plays at the rim. At the same time, he still showed his ability to see the floor and find the open teammate thanks to his great court vision, while also rebounding the ball very well for a wing.
Deni Avdija traveled to the US over NBA All Star weekend and took part in and earned MVP of Basketball Without Borders. He was clearly the best shooter at the camp; utilizing his size and footwork to score from multiple spots on the floor. Having had the opportunity to speak with Avdija after the camp, here’s what he had to say.
NBADraft.net: How was Basketball Without Borders and how was All Star Weekend?
Deni Avdija: Wow. Amazing. First of all, amazing facilities – whether it’s Queens (University) or Charlotte (Spectrum) Arena, I think they are great facilities and I see why a lot of players come from America, cause it’s really amazing to grow up here and play basketball on these courts. As an experience, it was very good. I’ve enjoyed every moment of it, whether it’s here at this camp; a lot of great coaches, great players, great friends, new friends to meet. To go to the All Star on the big stage and see the best of the best playing and competing, I think it’s really an honor to be here and play in the events.
NBADraft.net: Do you get to watch a lot of NBA games?
Deni Avdija: Yeah, in Israel it’s like opposite hours so it will be at night, I’m sleeping so I’ll maybe catch up in the day, watching highlights and stuff but yeah, I’m following.
NBADraft.net: Who’s your favorite player?
Deni Avdija: I don’t really have a favorite player. I like to watch all the guys play. I like everybody. I like a lot of guys for who they are; maybe It’s Kyrie (Irving), maybe it’s Joel Embiid, maybe it’s Ben Simmons, maybe it’s Luka (Doncic). Everybody has a different aspect that I like to see.
NBADraft.net: Who do you feel like you’re most similar to?
Deni Avdija: I don’t really know. For me, I’m just trying to be special and unique. I don’t really want to compare me to anybody. I just want to be Deni, you know?
NBADraft.net: How do you feel like you played? Did you feel like you were able to showcase everything you can do?
Deni Avdija: Yeah, I tried to do my best and it was most important for me to share the ball with other players from other countries who came here and don’t have that big of a stage. I tried to make them better, talk to them, maybe pass them the ball more. At the end of the day 80 minutes isn’t a lot of time to play and prove yourself. It was really a tough three days, everybody was sore and tight, but we still managed to get some good experience and playing time.
NBADraft.net: This summer you got to come over and play in the NBPA Top 100 camp, how was that?
Deni Avdija: It was really different than here. There’s different schedules and different guys, everyone’s American and you’re probably the only European on the court but that’s the life, that’s playing at a high level and you need to figure it out. It was hard the first day, then I got to meet my teammates more and they respected me more and we played good, we won the championship, so I think I did great.
NBADraft.net: Were these your only two trips to the US or have you been here before?
Deni Avdija: There was one time I was in a tournament for Maccabi. Maccabi organized it and that was at All Star Weekend when it was in Brooklyn. I didn’t get a change to really enjoy the city, but it was an amazing experience. It was a long time ago.
NBADraft.net: How long have you been playing basketball?
Deni Avdija: Since fourth grade. I started playing soccer in my neighborhood on a small court. As time progressed, I moved to basketball, I moved to Maccabi. It’s getting bigger and bigger. I’m trying to work hard, I respect every moment for me on this court.
NBADraft.net: How old were you when you realized basketball could be more than a game for you?
Deni Avdija: I haven’t really thought about it a lot. I just play my game, made some new friends, and went to new places. I’m just going with it. I’m working very hard and taking what’s in front of me. I don’t think about it, I just focus straight away.
NBADraft.net: Do you get to watch any college basketball?
Deni Avdija: No not at all. I see on Instagram some Duke plays.
NBADraft.net: Who did you think was the best player here?
Deni Avdija: Wow, it’s really hard. A lot of amazing players I managed to see. I think a lot of players also deserved this MVP award because I see all around me some great players, great athletes. I don’t really know their names, but the French guys are really good. My guys from Africa. (Matej) Ruden from Croatia is a really big player, I love him. I don’t know, I saw so many good players.
NBADraft.net: Where do you see yourself five years from now?
Deni Avdija: I don’t know; I’m just focusing on right now, getting more minutes, and working hard. We’ll see. It’s more to come.