The 2020 NBA Draft is tentatively scheduled for October 16, and the Knicks have three picks in this year’s draft. They own their own first-round pick, which will land anywhere between No. 1 and No. 10 overall depending on NBA Lottery results on (tentatively) August 25, and they also own the Clippers’ first-round pick from the Marcus Morris trade, and a pick from the Hornets from the Willy Hernangomez trade.
Today’s profile features Deni Avdija, who plays for Maccabi Fox Tel Aviv in the EuroLeague and the Israeli Basketball League (I-BSL).
Team: Maccabi Fox Tel Aviv
Age: Will turn 20 on January 3, 2021
Weight: 210 pounds
17 starts in 50 games of international basketball from 2019-2020
1.8 FTA per game
2.7 3PTA per game
Physical Profile: Avdija is an average athlete that would be considered mobile for a power forward but below-average athletically for a wing. He is not explosive near the rim but does well using change of speeds to navigate to the rim.
Offense: Deni Avdija is a smart basketball player that does everything on the court reasonably well. He can handle the ball, run screen and roll, pass, cut, and finish with touch around the basket. His shooting is inconsistent, but his form and results have shown progress in recent games.
Maccabi Tel Aviv will run its offense through Avdija at times, charging him with a lot of ball-handling and creation duties. He knows how to operate in the pick and roll, and makes excellent decisions with the ball in his hands. He consistently makes the right play, whether it is finding an open teammate or getting all the way to the rim. His playmaking and passing ability for a 6’8” player is impressive. He ranked in the 90th percentile of players in points per possession in pick and roll situations, with or without passes being included.
Avdija has a strong handle for a bigger forward, but is right-hand dominant. You will rarely see him drive, pass, or finish with his left hand. With his right hand he can get to the hoop, where he finishes with touch using a variety of scoop shots with impressive touch.
Avdija doesn’t get to the line nearly enough, and when he gets there he doesn’t make enough of his free throws. Despite his size and improving frame, Avdija prefers to avoid contact than initiate it. His 55 percent free throw success rate is troubling and ushers legitimate concerns about his jump shot. The problems appear to be more mental to me than physical.
Over the course of his international play in the EuroLeague and I-BSL (he played more minutes in the Israeli league) last season, Avdija shot 35 percent from the three point line. In 26 EuroLeague games he shot only 28 percent on 1.81 attempts per game, but he shot 39 percent in the I-BSL on 3.62 attempts per game from behind the arc. Avdija has a quick and smooth release. There’s nothing about his form that is particularly worrying.
The Israeli Basketball League began playing again on June 21 after suspending play in early March. In those three months, Avdija clearly worked on his shot, eliminating a weird curve of his back, like he was hunching over, as he elevated to shoot. In the three games since the league began playing again, Avdija has shot 7-15 from beyond the three point line. It is a small sample size but encouraging.
He shoots his number on catch and shoot plays, but also frequently shoots threes off the dribble. Avdija is often given the ball at the end of the shot clock and is asked to create off the dribble, which leads to some lower percentage threes that don’t come within the flow of the offense.
Even though it is out of style in the NBA, Avdija also has an excellent post-up game with multiple moves and great footwork that should allow him to take advantages of mismatches against smaller players. His ability to work the angles portends someone that should be good at using angles to create space or contact near the basket in the NBA.
He can take bigger defenders off the dribble in Israel, but it is fair to ask whether his athleticism will translate as well in the NBA against far superior athletes. Avdija plays with two former NBA forwards on his Israeli team, Quincy Acy and Amar’e Stoudemire.
Defense: Avdija lacks the length and athleticism to be an elite defensive player. He is good at positioning himself and getting where he needs to be to prevent easy penetration. I do not see a situation where he will be able to consistently guard NBA wings in space, but he should be able to cover NBA power forwards if he gets stronger, and improves his rebounding.
As a team defender, Avdija is very smart and aware. He should be able to make himself part of a disciplined unit at that end depending on the other players and coaches around him.
The Swing Skill: If Avdija’s shot becomes a potent weapon, he can be an extremely well-rounded offensive player. His mechanics looks strong, so projecting his shot positively moving forward does not require too much optimism. I think it is more likely that not he becomes a 38 percent-plus three point shooter and 75 percent-plus free throw shooter in the NBA.
High-End Outcome: The three point shot comes along, and Avdija gets strong enough to play power forward in the NBA. NBA teams can run possessions through him the way the Warriors do with Draymond Green, though Avdija would be a better scorer. He can also play well offensively off the ball, as a good catch and shoot player, cutter, and finisher at the basket. He is the perfect tertiary offensive player and secondary creator on a good team that helps them win games.
Low-End Outcome: Avdija’s free throw percentage is a sign of things to come. He remains below average from behind the three-point line, making him a poor off-ball offensive player, and his athleticism doesn’t allow him to handle and penetrate against NBA wings. He never becomes a good enough rebounder or strong enough to play power forward and becomes a low end back-up with a mediocre all-around game.
Conclusion: I love the way Deni Avdija plays the game. He plays it the right way. He is smart and makes good decisions when he has the ball in his hands. I buy the jump shot coming along. He should not be too much of a liability defensively. He just feels like someone that will be a winning basketball player on any team. He’s a good basketball player that knows that he is doing, which in this draft class is a huge deal. He would fit nicely between RJ Barrett and Mitchell Robinson long term for the Knicks.
Prediction: Top 5 pick