Israel's Deni Avdija will expand Wizards' popularity around globe


Last summer, on the same night they drafted Rui Hachimura of Japan, the Wizards' business arm was flooded with international partnership opportunities, as companies from around the world saw potential in a player who had an entire country's hopes resting on his shoulders.

The same effect may be seen in the coming days after the Wizards selected Deni Avdija with the ninth overall pick. He is the highest draft pick ever from the country of Israel, just like Hachimura was for Japan.

But beyond the chance for the Wizards to make more money in the international market, the potential for Avdija to become a role model and popular figure globally is palpable. He represents a country of only about 8.9 million people, but also many more around the world who identify with Israel and the Jewish faith.

There are going to be many young kids who find Avdija more relatable than any other NBA lottery pick they have ever seen before.

"It was crazy for me. Israel is such a small country that doesn't provide as many NBA players as other countries, but for me just to represent my country and make history, that's a blessing," Avdija said on Thursday night. 

"I have the whole nation behind me. I hope I'm going to represent well. I never dreamed about this moment. I'm thinking it's just still a dream."

Avdija became the highest drafted player from Israel by beating out Omri Casspi, who was the 23rd overall pick in 2009. They have been teammates previously on the Israel national team and Casspi has become a mentor as Avdija gets set to begin his NBA career.


Avdija said Casspi has been advising him specifically on what to expect in his rookie season when it comes to travel and the rigors of the NBA grind. Casspi may also be able to prepare Avdija for the attention he is about to receive.

During Casspi's 10-year NBA career, it was common to see fans with Israeli flags show up to his road games. He had admirers all over the country. That phenomenon could be seen for Avdija to an even greater extent.

He is planning to take what Casspi started and continue pushing Israel forward in the basketball world.

"As much motivation I can bring to the young players, that's a blessing for me. I will do everything to promote it," he said.

"[I hope kids] see that us being a small country doesn't mean that we can't do big things. We did big things and we're going to keep doing big things, and I'm here to help everybody. And to anybody who needs my advice, I'm going to always give it."