You’ve heard of Hoodie Melo. Can we interest you in some Empty-Gym Avdija?
The potential top-five NBA Draft prospect dropped a workout reel on his Twitter account Friday with the caption: “First week of work done... I’m hungry #LivingTheDream.” Maccabi Tel Aviv wrapped their season exactly one month ago with a July 28 victory over Maccabi Rishon LeZion in the Israeli BSL title game.
And, actually, perhaps “empty-gym” isn’t a totally fair description. In the video, Avdija unleashes a plethora of compact dribble moves, agile finishes and off-the-dribble jumpers with a defender giving chase:
All to the tune of Lil Baby’s “Sum 2 Prove.” Combine that with Avdija last year calling the Bulls his favorite team, and the sentimental reasons for Artūras Karnišovas to use the No. 4 pick in this year’s draft on the Israeli forward are mounting.
Though it’s ill-advised to trust conveniently-edited highlight tapes in evaluating draft prospects, the video does flash some of what makes Avdija intriguing for the Bulls from a basketball perspective too. Standing 6-foot-9, Avdija is a nimble ball handler, graceful finisher when he has a head of steam and an adept distributor to boot. His jack-of-all-trades skill set at his size could plug a number of holes on the wing for the Bulls, and jibes with the NBA’s league wide trend toward versatility across the positional spectrum.
Avdija and Maccabi’s run to that Israeli BSL title represents the most recent tape of any top draft prospect for the viewing public to consume. The 19-year-old was named the youngest MVP in the league’s history after the five-game playoff, in which he averaged 30 minutes, 9.6 points, 7.4 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.6 steals and 1.4 blocks per game.
His best outing of that stretch came in the decisive Game 3 of Maccabi’s quarterfinal, best-of-three series against Hapoel Tel Aviv. Two nights after going scoreless in a Game 2 defeat, Avdija logged 37 minutes, 22 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals and 2 blocks in the clincher, shooting 7-for-12 from the field, 6-for-8 from the charity stripe and canning two 3-pointers.
The downside of that five-game stretch, though: Avdija’s 39% shooting from the field and 25% (5-for-25) from 3-point range dampened post-pandemic-hiatus optimism surrounding his inconsistent jumper. In seven contests between the Israeli BSL’s restart in mid-June and the beginning of the postseason in July, Avdija averaged 17.3 points, 6.6 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game on 53.8-41-72.4 shooting splits, as his role (28.9 mpg) increased from earlier in the campaign.
That Avdija totaled more turnovers (20, 4.0 per game) than assists (14, 2.8 per game) in the playoffs also showed he has room to improve navigating on-ball defensive pressure and as a decision-maker. His outside shooting, playmaking and defensive aptitude represent massive swing-skills at the NBA level.
Yes, Avdija owns significant upside. But similar to every prospect atop what many consider to be a weak 2020 draft class, his game comes with its fair share of red flags.
Expect video clips galore showcasing the former as the league’s unprecedented and drawn-out predraft process marches on.