With the NBA season coming to an end and the Los Angeles Lakers winning a much deserved NBA championship, basketball fans now look forward to the upcoming NBA Draft. With many fascinating prospects such as Anthony Edwards, Lamelo Ball and James Wiseman, many teams could look to these players to revamp their franchise in dire need of extra production. However, some excellent prospects have fallen below the radar, and someone I want to highlight is Deni Avdija.
Deni Avdija is a 19-year-old forward who plays overseas in the Israeli Premier League for Maccabi Tel Aviv. Standing at 6-feet-9-inches and 220 pounds, Avdija has dominated his competition so well that NBA scouts have noticed his capabilities. He is being hailed as the greatest Israeli prospect of all time with impressive statistical lines, awards that include the youngest MVP award in Israeli history and winning three Israeli championships and two gold medals. He boasts many great attributes that, with proper coaching, can make him into a terrifying player in the NBA.
Avdija, as said before, brings many great skills to the table. His number one skill, which has brought the most interest to him, is his work ethic. He works on every possible weakness to utilize his full potential and will work on new skills to make him a problem in the NBA. The next thing that should be touched on is his ability to get to the rim. While some small areas can be improved, his ability to finish at the rim is definitely impressive for a player of his age. Avdija can finish well with his left and right hand on layups with the ball in transition and get fancy with a euro step layup to make finishing easier. He is also an excellent backdoor cutter and gets many open shots near the rim for easy points for his team. Finally, it is essential to focus on the great playmaking that’s allowed him to switch back and forth from small forward and power forward. He’s been able to distribute the ball very well and will be able to help his teammates improve as he develops throughout his career. This mature sense of playmaking puts him much higher than other forwards in the draft.
However, while he has some great skills, there are also many weaknesses that NBA scouts should touch upon before the NBA Draft. His shooting has been incredibly streaky, whether from the 3-point line at just 27% or the free-throw line at only 55%. With how vital a jump shot is in today’s NBA, it is no doubt that this may be the main reason that he has fallen on many draft boards from being higher in this draft. However, it may also be due to poor shot mechanics as scouts have examined the film. This can easily be changed to improve like many other highly rated prospects such as Lonzo Ball. Avdija’s on-ball defense has been very shaky as well, and due to a lack of athleticism, he hasn’t been able to keep up with faster defenders and becomes a liability on that side of the court. While his ability to get to the rim, as said before, is solid, he hasn’t been the best at dribbling through traffic and has made foolish plays that allow him to lose the ball very easily. His handling is not the best, as it shows how he tends to lean more towards his right hand to dribble out of traffic.
For Avdija, there is no doubt that he shows promise for many teams. His weaknesses can easily be corrected, and he definitely shows scouts that he will work hard to unlock his full potential. An example can be found after a 2019 quarterfinal win, while his team was out celebrating, he stayed behind to work on his poor free-throw shooting. A great frame can quickly help him become a much better on-ball defender, which would be needed for him to get extra minutes on the court in crucial situations. His frame also allows him to bully smaller defenders and create much better offense. His poor dribbling is more of a problem due to how open it is and how he needs to tighten up to free up more space to either hand the ball off to the open man or find another way to put up points.
With being slated at the fourth or fifth pick in the upcoming draft, the Chicago Bulls and Cleveland Cavaliers will have a difficult decision on who they want to select with their pick. The Bulls would most likely put Avdija at the small-forward due to Lauri Markannen, and the Cavaliers would do the same due to Kevin Love. Both the Bulls and the Cavaliers desperately need playmaking as they both are consistently ranked in the bottom half of the league in that area. Avdija could help revitalize both of these teams and improve both of their dreaded rosters. His all-around game can do wonders for both teams, and he is undoubtedly an exciting prospect. With the upcoming draft coming closer, NBA teams should keep a close eye on Deni Avdija.