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2020 NBA Draft scouting report: Deni Avdija (Part 1)

EuroLeague: Valencia Basket V Maccabi Tel Aviv Photo by Ivan Terron/AFP7/Europa Press Sports via Getty Images

In advance of the 2020 NBA Draft, Peachtree Hoops is evaluating prospects with a look at what the Atlanta Hawks might be considering from now until the selection process occurs. Dozens of prospects will be profiled in this space and, today, we break down Israeli forward Deni Avdija.

Throughout the build-up to the 2020 NBA Draft, there’s a general an ebb-and-flow as various prospects rise and fall. As time unfolds new intel comes to light and other such factors that result in prospects rising/falling in mock drafts.

19 year Israeli prospect Deni Avdija — for the most part — has generally held his own spot inside the top-10 of most mocks throughout the year, generally in the 4-8 range. More recently, however, there are some outlets that are beginning to place Avdija closer towards 2-5 range as we (finally) edge closer to the NBA Draft on November 18th.

But before all of that, let’s back up a little bit.

If you’ve been around the internet or Twitter, you’ll have heard of Deni Avdija, but in Israel, he is so much more than an internet sensation.

The following is an excerpt from a piece from Ben Pickman of Sports Illustrated.

Avdija settles onto a short stool just off the baseline. Omri Casspi, a fellow Israeli and 10-year veteran NBA forward who rejoined the club last summer, sits just a few feet away. Dozens of kids flock to them both, taking selfie after selfie, requesting that the two sign anything from sweatshirts and hats to an arm cast.

After 15 minutes Casspi is escorted off the floor. “He’s Jesus over here,” Acy says. But Avdija remains, posing with seemingly everyone. “I’m always going to take selfies, because those kids see me as something special,” Avdija explains later.

Perhaps not quite the words I would have used given where he plays, but that’s the general idea of how Avdija is viewed in Israel.

Avdija is set to become the highest-ever drafted prospect from Israel when his name is inevitably called on November 18th and — as the above linked article goes into detail — hold the hopes of a nation as a potential NBA star.

But before any talk of NBA stardom, like any other star before him Avdija has got to go through the draft process and we’re going to take a look and see what’s what.

So, let’s get to it, shall we?

Avdija’s season was packed to say the least and is probably one of the very prospects who has played beyond March when the majority of basketball was ground to a halt, his last game coming in late July.

Overall, Avdija played in 59 games across two competitions for Maccabi Tel Aviv — the Israeli domestic league and the EuroLeague. While I would normally list Avdija’s averages across the two competitions, this time around, it’s worth talking about them individually as his role differed greatly between the two competitions.

Domestically in the I-BSL (Israeli Basketball Super League), Avdija took on a larger role as he averaged 12.9 points per game on 52% shooting from the field on nine attempts per game, 35% from three on four attempts per game, 59% from the free throw line on 2.9 attempts per game, 6.2 rebounds, 2.6 assists, one block, two turnovers and two personal fouls in an average of 27.6 minutes per game 33 games and 21 starts, per RealGM.

Phew, quite a mouthful.

In the EuroLeague, Avdija averaged four points on 43% shooting from the field on 3.6 field goal attempts, 27% from three on 1.8 attempts, 55% from the free throw line on .69 attempts per game, 2.6 rebounds, 1.1 assists, two personal fouls and 0.7 turnovers per contest in an average of 14.3 minutes in 26 games played and five games started, again, per Real GM.

For the season across all competitions, Avdija averaged nine points per game on 50% shooting from the field on 6.7 attempts per game, 33% from three on three attempts, 58% from the free throw line on 1.9 attempts, 59% true shooting, 58% effective field goal percentage, 4.6 rebounds, two assists, two personal fouls and 1.5 turnovers in an average of 21 minutes per game.

So, different roles for Avdija in both competitions as he was allowed off of the leash to some extent in the I-BSL, but was deployed primarily in a reserve role in the much more competitive EuroLeague. It’s obviously important to examine both and important to examine his season averages with that context.

Which set of stats do I believe more in? Honestly, the season averages tell a pretty decent story for Avdija. Normally when a prospect has competed in the EuroLeague I’m more inclined to buy more into what that prospect did in that competition more so than what he did domestically, given the nature of the competition itself and competition on the court and even in his own team in the rotation. But in Avdija’s case, those averages undersell his abilities.

Avdija is evaluated not just for his EuroLeague performances but what he was able to show/flash in a larger capacity domestically so we’ll be looking at footage from his involvements in both to get a more complete picture, though I usually lean towards what’s shown in the EuroLeague... I digress...

Avdija is listed at 6’9” but reportedly possesses an unimpressive wingspan, with numerous sites listing his wingspan at 6’8” at present.

Despite that, Avdija projects very well physically to the NBA from a size point of view. He was deployed in a number of different positions throughout the season from guard to PF and even rotating to the center spot at times but we can discuss the nature of his potential NBA position at the end.

Let’s get into the film, shall we? Avdija wears No. 8 and Maccabi Tel Aviv wear yellow or blue, so he’ll be easy enough to spot.

Avdija’s offensive game is up first, starting with his scoring.

Three-point shooting seems to be a decent place to start where Avdija averaged over three attempts per game in all competitions: just under half of his overall field goal attempts where he shot 33%. Let’s get an eye in on some of these.

A lot of these came in catch-and-shoot scenarios, as opposed to off of the dribble, such as this three-pointer when Avdija receives the ball after the three-point miss from his teammate and Avdija makes no mistake on the second chance:

On this possession, some nice ball movement from former NBA players Tyler Dorsey and Quincy Acy finds Avdija open in the corner for the make on the catch-and-shoot three:

Again, Dorsey helps break down the defense and finds the open Avdija for the catch-and-shoot three:

Add another assist for Dorsey as he gets through the defense on the quick rejection of the screen going left and finds Avdija in the corner for the catch-and-shoot three:

Once again, Avdija is placed in the corner and is found in the corner before hitting a clean, crips catch-and-shoot three from the corner:

Avdija can also hit these catch-and-shoot threes in clutch scenarios too, doing on this possession as he hits the deep three after Tel Aviv collect the offensive rebound off of the Acy miss in the corner, bringing Tel Aviv to within three points with a minute left:

Let’s look at a few of Avdija’s other three-point makes from a general point of view, including this three coming from a switch where Avdija isn’t able to break through on the drive, choosing then to back out before hitting the contested, confident three-pointer:

On this play, Avdija engages in a beautiful piece of two-man play, going back and forth as they draw the defense respectively, with Avdija eventually hitting the three-pointer:

On a switch off of the screen, Avdija isn’t afraid to take the contested, pull-up three-pointer which he connects with:

Let’s take a look at some misses, just for reference.

On a deeper look from beyond the arc, Avdija isn’t able to convert — he’s normally not one to take threes from especially deep in the same way as, for example, LaMelo Ball:

Avdija’s shot selection/quality can be a little off at times, evidenced by this poor air-balled three-pointer off of the dribble:

From a catch-and-shoot scenario, Avdija receives the pass and with the on-rushing defender, finds his three-point attempt bounce away from its home and off of the rim:

On the seemingly rare attempt off of the dribble, Avdija is unable to connect:

You may have noticed a trend in a lot of these three-point attempts, make or miss: they involve Avdija, for the most part, being deployed off of the ball and not involved in the action out front, whether it’s handling the ball or setting a screen in a screen-and-fade scenario. Not to say, of course, that he doesn’t or can’t, but the trend appeared to be that Avdija was placed in the corner and was a beneficiary of the ball-handler breaking down the defense and Avdija excelling in catch-and-shoot scenarios, rather than off of the dribble or in screens.

Let’s move on to some of Avdija’s work on the move.

I wouldn’t describe Avdija as an elite athlete but he is able to get up there and show some explosion, as he does on this play after the pick-and-roll and shot by Amar’e Stoudemire is missed and Avdija receives the ball at the three-point line and explodes at the rim:

After receiving the give-and-go from his teammate, Avdija gets inside, takes the bump and hits the runner over the outstretched defender for the basket plus the foul:

With Avdija stationed on the wing, the pick-and-roll takes place out front. The defense gets drawn to the action towards the rim, leaving Avdija free on the wing. The ball is swing to him and Avdija drives to his right before displaying decent stride and finishes with his left hand:

Heading up the floor, Avdija trails the action and receives the ball before hesitating on the drive and extending to finish at the rim:

Moving into some more open court action, Avdija receives the ball at the three-point line in transition before driving into the space going right and it’s a simple finish at the rim:

Off of the miss, Tel Aviv come the other way despite Avdija’s tangle leaving him on the floor, he gets back up, receives the ball and finishes at the rim:

A little more of an unusual play here as Avdija inbounds the ball and heads up the court. His teammate, however, sees the extra body and when he passes to Avdija at mid-court, Avdija is able to fend off the defender and get to the rim for the basket:

You can see that in many of these that Avdija is, again, off of the ball; not handling it, not coming off of screens — for the most part he’s off of the ball. But being off of the ball is something that Avdija can make work for his team...

Avdija’s movement off of the ball is good and this can create opportunities for himself and obviously the team.

Off of the pick-and-roll out front, Avdija is stationed in the corner and when the pass to the roller is made, Avdija makes his cut from the corner, receives the ball and finishes at the rim, plus the foul:

On the screening action out front — with Avdija in the corner — the trap is attempted but Tel Aviv are able to pass out of it and Avdija makes the cut from the corner, receives the ball and finishes with ease at the rim:

On this possession, it’s not a cut but it’s the active movement of Avdija off of the ball to watch as he makes multiple movements off of the ball before being in the right place to receive the dump-off and his job to score at the rim is an easy one:

Avdija can also operate in the post in some instances, which perhaps shouldn’t come as surprise given how Avdija plays multiple positions at 6 foot 9 inches.

Starting off with a miss, you can at least see Avdija operate in the post (he should probably score here, which is why I’m adding it):

Here, Avdija comes across the lane from the weak-side, receives the ball and goes to work. He backs down his opponent, the help doesn’t arrive, he turns, rises, gets into the opponent’s space drawing the contact and makes the shot, plus the foul:

Avdija gets a bit more physical in the post on this possession and his reward for that physicality is the foul and free throws:

On the opposite block this time, Avdija receives the ball in the post. While he does make good ground (basically starting at the three-point line), the defense is always going to be right there to collapse and Avdija has to pass out of the post. He then sets himself again and goes about his move a lot quicker, aggressively using his left arm (perhaps fortunate not to be called for an offensive foul) before spinning and banking his high shot off of the glass and in the bucket:

Avdija can be a little unpredictable at times with the ball, leading to — at times — some wayward shots.

On a seemingly rare occasion where Avdija not only comes off of a screen but also handling the ball coming off of a screen, he tries to turn the corner but finds himself with an immovable defender and the end result is Avdija unable to get through and attempts a poor shot:

After the entry pass is turned over by the opposing team, Avdija ends up with the loose ball and looks to quickly capitalize in transition, however, he allows his exuberance to get the best of him, taking an ill-advised shot and missing at the rim:

We’ve seen this already but a poor three-point attempt here from Avdija and the air-ball is a good reflection on the shot itself:

When it comes to Avdija’s offense, it’s mostly off-ball opportunities, standing in the corner/wing waiting for penetration to shoot a three, or in the corner to receive the ball and drive inside, or in the corner/wing to make a cut to finish at the rim.

Overall, I don’t think we saw the full picture from Avdija offensively. I believe Avdija is capable of more offensively but perhaps not a ton more? We’ll talk about it more later.

In the meantime, let’s move on to Avdija’s passing/playmaking, where he averaged two assists a game in all competitions.

One of the things that struck me when it came to Avdija was how snappy and accurate his passes were, while also showcasing some of his vision. Not all of these will lead to assists but it’s where I want to start (and it’ll be fitting enough since I don’t see Avdija as a primary ball-handler, so perhaps these kinds of plays will be the most common you’ll see from Avdija next season, possibly).

To start, when the ball-handler sees the extra body, he kicks to Avdija and as the defense rotates to him, Avdija does well to quickly read and recognize the play that needs to happen, promptly swinging it to the corner for the assist on the long jump-shot:

Not an assist but, again, a nice snappy — and extra — pass from Avdija to the corner before receiving it again and missing the three-pointer:

Here, Avdija starts as the ball-handler before handing it off. He then receives it again and makes a nice swing pass to his right — doesn’t lead to anything directly from Avdija this time (Acy does well to finish the play) because the rotation is strong but again, snappy and accurate from Avdija:

Avdija is a player I would call unselfish — there were a number of occasions where Avdija could have shot himself but instead chose to find his teammate instead.

Off of a missed jumper at the free throw line, Acy is able to grab the offensive rebound and quickly gets it out to Avdija behind the three-point line. Avdija could (and probably should, to be fair) launch the three but he makes the snap decision to throw the overhead pass to the corner but no shot follows:

Again, perhaps another instance of where Avdija should’ve taken the shot but chooses to pass instead. Safe to say the final shot wouldn’t have been anything worse that Avdija may have taken with the shorter defender surely not being able to affect the shot a ton but alas, Avdija makes the pass instead:

We’ll look at some pick-and-roll action now. As mentioned, Avdija really isn’t involved a ton on the ball but here are a few possessions where he was.

On this possession, you can see Avdija’s size come to the fore as he’s able to make the pass over the top of the pick-and-roll to Amar’e Stoudemire, who has enough experience to do the rest:

On the pick-and-roll, Avdija just about puts enough ‘oomph’ into the bounce-pass to reach his teammate’s hands and is able to finish at the rim for the assist:

Honestly, there’s very little out there for Avdija in the pick-and-roll: the ball just isn’t in his hands enough offensively to begin with, let alone receiving dedicated possessions to orchestrate the pick-and-roll. It always fell to someone else to run the pick-and-roll. Again, not to say Avdija can’t but that’s how his role seemingly was.

One handy way for the ball to end up in Avdija’s hands however is in transition. Avdija’s size means he can be active on the glass and once he grabs the defensive rebound/receives it in the backcourt, he can set up something.

Having survived in the post — thanks to the help defense — Avdija manages to direct the rebound to his teammate in the crowd. He then receives the ball on the move in transition, heads down the middle of the paint and draws the defense before delivering the easy pass to his teammate to his left for the assist at the rim:

On this play — not one trip later than the last play — Avdija collects the miss and heads up the floor. He then proceeds to split the defense to get into the paint before drawing the defense and delivering a beautiful left-handed pass for the assist, plus the foul:

After getting a hand in to help create the turnover, Avdija heads off in transition, receives the ball, again, goes down the middle before kicking the ball to the corner to find Dorsey for the assist on the corner three:

We looked (very briefly) at Avdija in the post and that later we’d look at some instances where Avdija made some plays out of the post. That time is now.

Here, Avdija receives the ball in the post and keeps his composure when the extra body comes his way. He makes the composed pass to the weak-side corner and while it doesn’t lead to an immediate shot the subsequent pass is, as Dorsey hits the three-pointer, giving Avdija the secondary assist:

Avdija begins this next play on one wing before coming across the lane and using the screen to get to his spot and receives the ball on the opposite wing. He backs down, drawing the second defender and finds his teammate for the open three-point attempt, which is badly missed:

Again, Avdija sees the extra body but makes a nice bounce-pass to his teammate on the weak-side and while that shot is missed, the follow-up is not:

Avdija averaged 1.58 turnovers per game for the season but domestically averaged over two turnovers per game as opposed to the 0.7 in the EuroLeague.

Sticking with the post-play to begin, Avdija’s attempted pass out of the double in the post is deflected and the turnover is committed:

I praised Avdija’s snappy, quick passing earlier but this was an instance where, in addition to it not quite being quick enough to travel to his teammate, the pass is telegraphed, intercepted and the turnover is committed:

In the pick-and-roll, Avdija and his roll-partner aren’t able to connect on the pass inside and the turnover is committed:

After a missed shot, Avdija collects the defensive rebound and heads down the court. As he heads down the middle, he finds himself in a crowd of three and his bounce-pass is unsuccessful in its endeavor to find his teammate and the turnover is committed:

Avdija didn’t get a ton of opportunities to showcase his abilities with the ball but showed some promise with what he did get. I think he’s capable to make some plays, and I think he possesses a good basketball IQ, but I just can’t see him as anything more than a player who can make some plays at his position — I think the “secondary playmaker” description is a bit too much.

For more on Deni Avdija, including a detailed look at his defensive profile and much more, click here for Part Two.