The 2020 draft is weird, this upcoming draft was already viewed as relatively shallow at the top, but then top prospects such as Lamelo Ball and James Wiseman had their seasons cut short, then the pandemic came along, canceling March Madness, which has been critical for the stock of many draft prospects. With most prospects having their seasons cancelled due to the pandemic, Deni Avdija, a 6’9” combo forward, why plays for Maccabi Tel Aviv, has had the spotlight and has been tremendous since returning. Deni has averaged 17.3 PPG, 6.6 RPG, and 3.3 APG post-pandemic; Deni’s incredible production has greatly helped his case as a top 5 pick and could potentially push his way into the top 3 pick conversation. Not to mention, he was just nominated the Israel League’s (Winner League) MVP award, impressive considering Deni is only 19 years old and plays on one of the top 5 basketball programs outside the NBA. He also has other accomplishments including leading Israel to winning the U20 championship and being the MVP in that league. This article is going to take a dive into Deni’s game as a player to determine if he’s worthy of the buzz he has gotten lately:
Deni is the most versatile prospect in the class, there aren’t a lot of holes in his game. Deni can function on and off the ball, he knows when to cut and move to find open shots, he also showed the ability to create off the dribble. Deni is an exceptional finisher, he shot over 65% in the paint. He gets to his spots inside with cuts, as a ball handler in transition, in the post, and can attack the basket off the dribble. His ability to finish inside at such an efficient level will
translate at the next level.
Even though Deni isn’t a super great shooter yet, he has a very tight and clean form that doesn’t need any sort of change. He is really solid in catch and shoot situations and showed some promise as a guy that can hit shots off the dribble. Considering he has a lot of room to grow as a shooter and still shoots 35% from deep, he has a chance to become a very effective shooter.
The best aspect of Deni’s offensive game is his passing, he has eyes on the back of his head. He has a tremendous basketball IQ that gives him a strong feel for where everyone is on the court. His ability to know when and how to dish it to his teammates is also very strong. Despite only averaging two dimes a game in Europe, I do believe he is capable of averaging over 6 dimes a night when the game speeds up and when he has the ball in his hands more often. Even though his assists numbers aren’t mind blowing, he did average over 5 APG at the U20 tournament. Assist numbers are also more balanced out in Europe since there are 5 more passes per possession in the Euroleague, he’s a better passer than his numbers suggest. He’s going to be one of the better playmaking wings in the league right out of the gate.
Deni is also a good defender. The dude has very good size, strength, speed, and serviceable lateral quickness. These athletic traits give him the potential to guard four positions at the next level. Deni’s strong defensive IQ helps him understand when to go for steals and blocks, he understands m when to be a help defender, and he doesn’t make many unnecessary. His defensive engagement has also been pretty good this season, he rarely loses interest or gets lost defensively.
The best attribute Deni has in his game is his effort, the dude plays hard. You don’t find many prospects with the talent level of Deni that play with that kind of motor. Even when he struggles offensively, he typically remains effective because he makes sure to give max effort defensively. We saw that from Deni recently in the first game of the Final Four series against Hapoel Gilboa Galil, where he only shot 5/14, but still had 3 steals and 2 blocks and made huge hustle plays in big moments. That combination of talent level and heart should give scouts faith that Deni will be able to maximize his potential.
Deni has been an inconsistent shooter throughout his career, he’s had very impressive stretches, for example: Deni shot 14/29 in his first five games since returning from the unexpected break, due to COVID-19… he’s also had moments where he can’t hit a jumper. His inconsistency has a lot to do with his shot base, his balance is very inconsistent, hence why his misses can look very ugly, at times. Deni is a bad free throw shooter, he only shoots 57.7% from the line which is unacceptable for anybody that aspires to be an impactful NBA player, especially when you’re a combo wing. As a player that likes attacking the rim, Deni has to improve as a free throw shooter or he will make his job more difficult than it should be, since players would just hack him when he attacks the rim. Encouragingly, Deni has a very pure looking strike and shot base is fixable, so upside is there for him to be an above average overall shooter at the NBA level.
Deni is very right hand dominant, he doesn’t like getting to his left hand often, which can limit the damage he can make as a ball handler early in his NBA career. He has been a pretty good finisher with his left hand when he gets to it, the next step for him is to be able to get fully comfortable using both hands in multiple situations.
Considering Deni’s accomplishments, U20 MVP his ability to finish in the paint, make plays for him and others, initiate fast breaks, hit shots, his athleticism, and play defenset as a 6’9” forward, Deni is built for the modern NBA. If Deni can become a more consistent shooter and make strides as an all-around ball handler, Deni could become a legit star. Therefore, he should be considered to be a top 3 pick, no doubt about it.
Comparison: Tony Kurkoc/Ben Simmons