NBA Draft 2020: Warriors scouts took long look at Deni Avdija in Israel

NBA Draft 2020: Warriors scouts took long look at Deni Avdija in Israel

Editor's note: As the Warriors prepare for the 2020 NBA draft, during which they will have a lottery pick for the first time since 2012, NBC Sports Bay Area will present a twice-weekly series spotlighting two players expected to be evaluated. This is the 11th of a 12-part series over a six-week span.

The first thing to understand about 2020 NBA Draft prospect Deni Avdija is that it’s unfair to compare him to Luka Doncic, even though there are commonalities beyond honing their games on European soil.

The next thing to understand about Avdija (AHV-dee-ya) is that the 19-year-old Israeli still is intriguing enough to be on the board of every lottery-bound team, including the Warriors.

Partly because so little separates the top 15 players and partly because he does many things well but nothing spectacular, Avdija’s draft projections read like a stock-market graph -- as high as top-three and as low as late lottery.

Though NBA teams became aware of Avdija as a 16-year-old, it was after his performance in the 2019 FIBA U20 European Championship, where he led Israel to the gold medal and was named tournament MVP, that they intensified their interest.

In 2018-19, it was mostly NBA scouts crossing the Atlantic to observe Avdija. In 2019-20, those trips were upgraded, as a procession of general managers took seats in mostly smallish gyms. The Warriors, according to multiple league sources, were among those taking a long look.

Video study of Avdija reveals someone more comfortable with the ball than with his shot. Someone more comfortable creating than scoring, but able to do both. His defense is more well-intentioned than effective. He’s a lanky kid whose swagger and high effort -- two elements that mirror Doncic -- compliment his broad set of skills.

Some compare Avdija’s game to those of Mike Miller or Danilo Gallinari, others to Hedo Turkoglu, Boris Diaw or Joe Ingles. I’d lean heavily toward the latter, mostly because Avdija’s basketball IQ seems high and he’s a better passer than shooter.

“Is he good enough to get minutes right now? Not on most teams,” one Western Conference scout told NBC Sports Bay Area. “But for his age, he’s got some polish, some things you can’t teach. You can see that he really wants to be good, that he believes in himself and is willing to be ‘the guy.’ Personally, I like that.

“That said, I think he could develop into a rotation player in a year or two. If he can get his shot to be more consistent -- and that’s something that can be worked on because I think he’ll want it -- he can have a pretty good career.”

[RUNNIN' PLAYS PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Avdija will be the second Israeli drafted in the first round. The first was Omri Casspi, who was drafted No. 23 overall by the Kings in 2009 and was a reserve for most of his 10 seasons. Though they both measure 6-foot-9 in shoes, Casspi and Avdija play very different offensive games.

Casspi, who spent most of the 2017-18 season with the Warriors, was a combo forward whose best work came off the ball, cutting and using screens to exploit the defense. Avdija is, in short, a small forward with guard skills who might evolve into a stretch-4.

His bloodlines offer promise. His Serbian father, Zufer, was a Euroleague power forward. His Jewish mother, Sharon Artzi, participated in track and field, as well as background. Deni has been around the game practically from birth.

The success of Doncic over his first two seasons surely turned more eyeballs to Avdija. Doncic is the first European teenager to immediately have success in the NBA. He proved legit as a rookie, becaming a star in his second season.

[RELATED: CP3 explains why he rejected 'true' trade to Dubs in 2011]

“Everyone has their own pace,” Avdija told Yaron Weitzman of Bleacher Report last November. “But Luka is a one-in-20-years-player.”

Listen to Avdija on this. He will not enter the league as a roster centerpiece, certainly not a franchise savior. He’s a piece, period, with an opportunity to be a very good piece and a chance to be even more.

Deni Avdija profile

Position:Small forward

Class: N/A

Birthdate: Jan. 3, 2001 (19)

Hometown: Beit Zera, Israel

2019-20 stats (Israeli Basketball League): 12.3 points (55.5 percent FG, 34.3 percent 3p, 50.9 percent FT), 5.9 rebounds, 2.4 assists.

Height: 6-foot-9

Weight: 215

Wingspan: 6-9

What they’re saying: "He’s a tough kid, smart, played at a high level long enough like a lot of guys that have come over from Europe -- Doncic, (Ricky) Rubio, (Kristaps) Porzingis. He’s been a basketball .... I don’t want to say prodigy in the way that Doncic was, because Doncic was Mozart. If Doncic was Mozart, this kid’s Elton John." – ESPN analysis Fran Fraschilla, to Cleveland.com

Nets GM Sean Marks denies wild Gregg Popovich 'Godfather offer' rumor

Nets GM Sean Marks denies wild Gregg Popovich 'Godfather offer' rumor

Could Kevin Durant and Gregg Popovich team up in Brooklyn?

As unlikely as the scenario is, there is a rumor floating around the NBA Twitterverse that the Nets are preparing to try to lure the legendary coach away from the San Antonio Spurs.

Stick with me here.

During a recent episode of the "Let's Get Technical" podcast, former NBA player Gerald Brown joined hosts Rasheed Wallace and Bonzi Wells, and guest Amin Elhassan. Brown said this:

"There's a story going around that the owner of the Brooklyn Nets is looking to make a 'Godfather offer' to Gregg Popovich, and when I say the 'Godfather [offer], it's something he can't refuse," Brown said. "Hearing this news, and it's probably going to circulate more in the days to come, I'm not really buying it at all."

Brown didn't cite a source on this rumor. But back in March, ESPN's Stephen A. Smith did mention Popovich's name as one of three candidates for the Nets' job (H/T The Spun), along with former Cleveland Cavaliers coach Ty Lue and former Warriors coach Mark Jackson.

The Pop-to-Nets rumor had enough legs to make it all the way back to Brooklyn GM Sean Marks, who was asked during an interview on WFAN radio in New York about the idea of pursuing the longtime Spurs coach.

"Pop has a job," Marks told Joe Benigno and Evan Roberts on Friday. "So I will say that. And, obviously, we all know he’s an amazing, amazing coach, and to be quite frank, an even better leader. So I’ll let Pop continue to coach for the Spurs, and He owes it to them and they owe it to him. I’m sure he’s quite happy there."

[RUNNIN' PLAYS PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

But would it make sense for the Warriors nemesis to leave San Antonio for Brooklyn?

The Nets need a permanent coach for the 2020-21 season. Brooklyn fired Kenny Atkinson in March, and interim coach Jacque Vaughn will guide the bare bones team through the NBA restart in Orlando, but he might not be the answer in the long run.

Durant and fellow NBA superstar Kyrie Irving are going to want a coach with experience and a proven plan. While Lue won an NBA title with the Cavs, and Jackson laid the foundation for the Warriors, they aren't the sexy picks.

Why would Popovich leave San Antonio, where he's coached for 24 seasons? The Spurs have been considered the gold standard for NBA teams for the last two decades, but they've fallen on hard times. Their streak of 22 straight NBA playoff appearances likely will come to an end this season, and they don't have a bonafide superstar to build around for the next few seasons.

So maybe it's time for Pop to chase a new challenge. Of course, he's 71 years old and has been coaching in the league since 1988, so maybe his next move is to hang up the clipboard.

But if Popovich wants one more chance to win a ring, bolting for Brooklyn might not be the worst idea, especially if the Nets are willing to make a "Godfather Offer" to him.

[RELATED: Durant all smiles on Dubs anniversary]

There would also be the strange twist of Durant teaming up with Warriors coach Steve Kerr's mentor.

If Pop really did make the move, the Warriors wouldn't have to deal with him in the Western Conference, but if they return to NBA title contention, they might be looking at Popovich, Durant and Irving across from them in the NBA Finals.

Now that's a juicy storyline. NBA Twitter might explode if that happened next summer.

Heat guard Tyler Herro studies Warriors' Klay Thompson to improve shot

Heat guard Tyler Herro studies Warriors' Klay Thompson to improve shot

Klay Thompson's shot is that of near perfection. Steph Curry might be regarded as the greatest shooter in NBA history, but his fellow Splash Brother's form is picturesque. 

Miami Heat rookie Tyler Herro is taking note, too. The shooting guard has taken advantage of his time away from the court before the NBA's restart by watching film on Thompson and other greats.

"Klay Thompson, Ray Allen, CJ McCollum, Steve Nash and Bradley Beal are the guys that’s I’ve watched, just picking different things from each player," Herro recently told reporters, via the South Florida Sun Sentinel's Ira Winderman. 

[RUNNIN' PLAYS PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Herro, 20, is averaging 12.9 points per game for the Heat while shooting an impressive 39.1 percent from 3-point range. As a rookie, Thompson shot 41.4 percent from deep and has a career 41.9 shooting percentage from beyond the arc. They don't make many like Klay. 

Miami's young sharpshooter is studying one specific part of Thompson's game, too.

"You know, Klay and Ray, they do the catch-and-shoot very well," Herro said. "So that's the thing that I pay attention to when I'm watching them. But every player that I watch, or the coaches have me watch, I can dissect something new or something different from their game to try to add it to mine."

[RELATED: Steph has funny prediction for Warriors-Cavs bubble rematch]

Herro and the Heat resume their season Aug. 1 against the Denver Nuggets in Orlando. In just his first season, he has helped the Heat become a contender as a feared outside shooter and will play a big role once the NBA returns. 

Rested, healthy and full of more knowledge from hours watching film, we'll soon be able to see what exactly Herro picked up from Thompson other great shooters.