When the Wizards selected Deni Avdija with the ninth overall pick in Wednesday's draft, the pick came as a surprise to many for multiple reasons. While Avdija was projected to be drafted in the top 5 of the lottery, he doesn't immediately address any of the needs Washington identified publicly heading into this offseason. However, agents around the league who spoke to NBC Sports Washington believe Washington's selection was perfect.
"He's a steal, trust me. He's way better than what people think," one NBA agent told NBC Sports Washington on the condition of anonymity. "I'm extremely surprised he slipped, I thought he would go ahead of [Killian] Hayes. What a great pick for Washington."
The Detroit Pistons selected Hayes with the No. 7 pick. The guard spent two years with Cholet in LNB Pro A, the top French League, before joining the German team Ulm last season in the Basketball Bundesliga.
It's difficult to find an obvious comparison for Avdija, a long, multi-tooled player who doesn't shoot well - especially at the free-throw line where he was a discouraging 55.6% last season. But has a good feel for the game and can operate as a decent secondary playmaker. Another agent offered a unique model.
"A better version of Goran Dragic comes to mind," the agent told NBC Sports Washington. "On a rebuilding team he would be rookie first team, second team at worst."
The comparison to Dragic is intriguing, but should serve as music to the ears of fans who don't know much about the international prospect. Dragic is heading into his 12th season in the NBA. He's a 6-foot-3 combo guard, who earned NBA All-Star honors in the 2017-18 season. Dragic played professionally in Slovenia for five years, starting at the age of 17, before being selected by the San Antonio Spurs in 2008.
Dragic never quite had the shooting issues during his time overseas that Avdija is working to improve. In his final season in Europe, Dragic shot 67.4% from two-point range, 30.4% from behind the arc and 80% from the free-throw line. He also averaged 11.3 points.
"It will take some time to adjust, for sure. But yeah, I'm for sure making changes, making my shot quicker, making my footwork quicker and more efficient," Avdija said in his introductory press conference Thursday. "[Releasing] a little bit faster is going to help me for sure."