“Situational Analysis” is a series of articles that seeks to examine the circumstances that most often influence an NBA prospect’s success. Each player will be scored on a scale from 1-10 in four different categories: NBA-specific skill(s), fatal flaw(s), collegiate/overseas/pre-NBA environment, and ideal NBA ecosystem.
Deni Avdija is a 19-year-old wing from Israel who averaged 7.4 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 1.8 assists per game in a limited role for a strong Maccabi Tel Aviv squad last season. He is expected to be selected in the mid-to-high lottery, perhaps as high as No. 2 overall. NBADraft.net has him slotted to go No. 2.
People often think perimeter shooting is the single-most valuable skill in today’s NBA. While the 3-ball is obviously important, I would wager that many general managers would say that it’s just as valuable – if not more so – to have a roster full of skilled players who know how to make something happen with the ball in their hands.
Deni Avdija is just such a player.
Standing 6-9 (and still growing), Avdija is this year’s answer to Hedo Turkoglu or (thin) Boris Diaw – a tall, savvy wing who can run an offense, hit cutters with pinpoint passes, and even break down a defense with a surprising array of spins and change-of-pace dribbles.
Avdija is one of this draft’s most composed, high-IQ players. He rarely plays as if he is in a hurry, but he isn’t slow, either. He keeps an offense moving, both in the half court and in transition. He won’t wow you with baseline-to-baseline speed or shock-and-awe athleticism, but the speed with which he makes decisions with the ball more than makes up for it.
He loves to operate in the high pick-and-roll. He prefers to drive to his right, but he can finish plays and make pinpoint passes with either hand.
Avdija doesn’t just play to pass, either. He loves to penetrate and draw contact. He is the sort of player who can get a shotblocking big man into quick foul trouble, thanks to his A-level pump fake and his efficiency near the hoop. Avdija converts on nearly 70% of his attempts near the rim for an impressive 1.402 points per shot near the tin in the half court, according to Synergy.
Unlike most players his age, Avdija is already a plus defender, thanks to his basketball intelligence, his nose for the ball, and his mean streak. He rebounds well and even offers better-than-expected rim protection, given his lack of vertical explosion and length.
On a scale from 1-10, Avdija’s playmaking at his size rates at a 9.
Avdija would possibly go No. 1 overall if he was a more consistent perimeter shooter. Alas.
Right now, Avdija’s shooting stroke comes and goes. He possesses an extremely analytics-friendly shot chart – nearly all 3s and layups – but that shot chart features a lot of blue (read: not good) behind the arc.
He excels from the corners, but that above-the-break 3 seems to be just outside of his range right now. He’s also missing that pull-up jumper or the off-the-bounce 3 that separates the stars from role players.
Avdija has improved his shooting mechanics, but his outside shot doesn’t have the arc one would hope to see. He is also an exceptionally poor career free-throw shooter at 56% – quite worrisome given his ability to draw fouls.
If Avdija can’t keep defenses honest with a reliable perimeter shot, teams will simply play under screens to reduce his effectiveness as a playmaker. And if Avdija can’t shoot north of 70% from the line, he might not drive to the rim with the same confidence and aggression.
It might not sound like much, but it’s the difference between becoming the Orlando Magic version of Hedo Turkoglu (folks seem to forget he was the lead playmaker on a Finals team) or Dario Saric (who just hasn’t caught on the way many expected him to). Pair that with his mediocre athleticism and subpar wingspan, and there simply isn’t much margin for error. Every “skill” aspect of Avdija’s game has to be elite or near-elite for him to reach his potential.
On a scale from 1 (not a concern) to 10 (serious hindrance), Avdija’s shaky shooting rates at an 8.5.
Avdija has been on the international prospect radar for quite some time. He started making waves the instant he was old enough to throw a -teen on the back half of his age.
He is widely considered the best overseas prospect in this year’s draft and is perhaps the best prospect in the history of Israel. He has excelled at nearly every level of international competition. You will see Avdija’s name all over the record books of the U16 through U20 European Championships. Ask the Basketball Without Borders folks about him, too – MVP in 2018 and 2019.
Avdija even earned a role on a Maccabi Tel Aviv squad that consistently competes for championships with adults who are either bubble NBA talents or former lottery picks. Readers of this site likely remember Dragan Bender, Tyler Dorsey and Omri Casspi, among others.
Few international players have put together a résumé comparable to Avdija’s prior to declaring for the NBA draft. Anyone comparing Avdija to Luka Doncic has to take a deep breath and chill, but Avdija’s accomplishments are impressive, nonetheless.
On a scale from 1-10, Avdija’s pre-NBA career rates at a 9.
Ideal NBA Ecosystem
Pretty much every team in the NBA can use another tall playmaking wing who can take the pressure off the squad’s lead ball handler and play quality team defense.
But which teams can accentuate Avdija’s positives, while masking (or perhaps improving) some of his weaknesses?
The Golden State Warriors come up in this spot in every piece we do, simply because it’s rare for a championship-caliber organization to pick this high in the draft. But it’s easy to envision Avdija playing a Shaun Livingston-esque bench role for next year’s squad, while developing into a key member of the Warriors’ core going forward. Avdija is nothing like Draymond Green in terms of temperament/personality, but their offensive skillsets in the half court are strikingly similar. Green would be an ideal tutor for young Avdija.
My favorite landing spot for Avdija is Atlanta. The young Hawks desperately need a secondary playmaker alongside Trae Young – a special offensive player who had to carry far too much of the load for Atlanta last season. Avdija would give Young the opportunity to play more off the ball and use the threat of his deep shooting as a more dangerous weapon.
He probably won’t go No. 1 overall, but the Minnesota Timberwolves could use someone to help stabilize the offense alongside Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell – two high-usage players who need a low-ego, savvy ball-mover like Avdija to keep things flowing. If Minnesota finds a trade they like with teams picking in the 5-8 range, Avdija could be the target.
Should Avdija slide a bit, the Washington Wizards would likely pounce on him at No. 9. Bradley Beal is going to be in a lot of trade talks if the Wiz start slow, and Avdija could bring some added firepower to a surprisingly potent offense.
On a scale from 1-10, Avdija’s situational independence rates at an 8. As one of the younger players in this year’s draft, it would benefit him greatly to end up in a steady situation where he isn’t asked to be the franchise savior.