The Washington Wizards are likely to have a lottery pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. Here is the latest in our series on draft prospects who could fall around where the Wizards will select...
2020 NBA Draft Wizards Prospect Preview: Deni Avdija
Team: Maccabi Tel Aviv/Israel
2019/20 stats: 26 G, 14.3 mpg, 4.0 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 1.2 apg, 0.4 spg, 0.2 bpg, 43.6 FG% (1.6/3.6), 27.7 3PT% (0.5/1.8), 55.6 FT%
Player comparison: Danilo Gallinari, Troy Brown Jr.
Projections: NBC Sports Washington 2nd, Sports Illustrated 3rd, Ringer 14th, NBADraft.net 5th, Bleacher Report 2nd
5 things to know:
*Avdija is one of the top international prospects in a draft class loaded with them. He's got the height of a power forward, but the mobility and play-making skillset of a guard. His athleticism really jumps out when juxtaposed with the competition he's faced in Europe. He can really push the pace and flies by smaller players. That may not be the case in the NBA where the athletes are quicker, but it creates an intriguing aura of potential for him.
*He hails from Israel and has a good chance to be the best basketball player ever from the country. There have been three Israel-born NBA players, all of which entered the league in 2010 or later: Omri Casspi, T.J. Leaf and Gal Mekel. Leaf is still finding his footing after being a first-round pick. Casspi is the best of the three, having played 10 NBA seasons, but Avdija has the potential to be much better. And if Casspi's popularity around the league is any indication, Avdija has the chance to be an international star with a lot of people around the world supporting him.
*Avdija played in the EuroLeague the past two seasons, which is the second-best basketball league in the world. The mere fact he reached that level bodes well for his ability to find success in the NBA, though Avdija didn't exactly tear up the competition. As the numbers above indicate, he was as a role player, though on a good team, to be fair. And his shooting percentages suggest he has some work to do both from long range and at the free-throw line. The counter, however, would be a guy like Rodion Kurucs who put even less impressive numbers in the EuroLeague in 2017-18 before enjoying a fine season as an NBA rookie for the Brooklyn Nets the following year.
*Beyond his shooting, another concern for Avdija would be where he fits on defense. He isn't much of a rim-protector and may struggle against stronger players at first before he fills out and adds muscle. Avdija's path to early success in the NBA definitely appears to be on the offensive end.
*Avdija's father, Zufer, was a professional basketball player himself. He also competed in the 1982 FIBA World Championship games representing Yugoslavia. Avdija has played for the Israel national team and figures to have a bright future with them on the world stage.
Fit with Wizards: There are a few reasons to believe Avdija would fit well with the Wizards. One is that he plays a position of need as the Wizards do not have a long-term stronghold at the small forward spot. They have Troy Brown Jr. and Isaac Bonga, two young players of intriguing potential, but it's not settled by any means. Avdija would have a reasonable path towards minutes early on his career, barring another roster move.
The other reason is that he plays a style of basketball the Wizards like. He's a small forward by trade, but does some things that make him versatile and perhaps a good fit for lineups that blur positional assignments. Avdija could affect the game with his passing at the three-spot, not unlike Brown Jr., and if both panned out it could give the Wizards a unique dynamic.
Avdija would seem to help with ball movement and creativity on offense. And he has the speed to run the break and play fast, which the Wizards like to do.
The potential downside of Avdija in Washington, however, is the fact he wouldn't do much to fix their biggest weaknesses of defense and rebounding. If they use their first-round pick on him, they would have to look elsewhere for some much-needed solutions.
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