The Trail Blazers floundering record and accumulation of injuries has placed them in a far different place than their preseason predictions suggested. With only two wins in November, Portland’s re-tooled roster has failed to gel, an issue compounded by the absence of Zach Collins. Outside of providing Carmelo Anthony with a platform to continue his storied career, the Blazers season appears to be careening toward the cliff that rests above the valley of lost seasons.
Enduring a season that features more losses than wins is far from ideal, but it could present a beacon of hope for the Blazers on draft night. Portland’s continued slide could make their 2020 first-round pick too valuable to trade in a long-anticipated midseason deal. With that in mind, Blazer’s Edge contributor Steve Dewald is going to provide an early look at projected lottery prospects that could help Portland rebuild on the fly.
Writer’s note: Yes, this is where I put the season at this moment. It is perfectly understandable to disagree. If that is the case, this is an excellent place to stop reading.
Today’s post looks at Israeli forward Deni Avdija.
Deni Avdija | F | Israel
Age: 18 | Height: 6’8”
Avdija combines graceful Euro-style moves with the powerful athleticism that is common among NBA perimeter players. Featured in a primary role in both a domestic league and international play, Avdija is primed to hit the ground running in today’s free-flowing game.
Offensively, Avdija possesses the court vision and touch that is rarely found in players of his age. Those traits are the driving force behind the comparison that places Avdija alongside current Mavericks star Luka Doncic. The 18-year-old forward’s passing skills are full display when he takes the wheel of Israel’s youth side in international competition.
Avdija has helped lead Israel to two consecutive gold medals in the FIBA Europe Under-20 Championship. In the 2019 tournament Avdija averaged 18.4 points, 5.3 assists and 8.3 rebounds per game. That statistical output combined with a gold medal finish to earn him tournament MVP honors.
Here are the highlights from Avdija’s performance in the 2019 competition:
Fit with the Blazers
Even at full strength, the 2020-21 Blazers could have a significant opening in their forward rotation. Due to the projected lack of perimeter options in the upcoming free agent class, the idea that Rodney Hood would once again settle for less is optimistic at best. If the Blazers hope to reload quickly by utilizing their draft assets, Avdija is a clear option.
Offensively, Avdija is effective as a facilitator in traditional sets and in transition, attributes that are on display during international competition. When featured in domestic play for Maccabi Tel Aviv, one of the top organizations overseas, Avdija has shown he can impact the game off the ball. Obviously, that forecast projects favorably to his potential fit inside Portland’s current roster.
Avdija’s growth on the defensive end might be the biggest sign for optimism. Early returns labelled the 18-year-old forward as an offense-first prospect that finishes below the rim. In the last year, Avdija has shown he has a penchant for shot blocking and high-flying dunks. Long-term, Avdija could partner with Nassir Little to form a dangerous frontcourt duo.
Despite what appears to be an ideal skill set for the NBA, concerns do exist. Avdija has struggled at the free throw line, which is troublesome indicator when evaluating his potential as a floor spacer. If isolated to just free throws, the Blazers coaching staff has proven capable of remedying those issues.
The 2019-20 season could end up being forgettable, but it has the potential to land the Blazers an important piece for the future. Avdija’s multi-faceted skills, likeness to a current star (Doncic), and professional experience make him an interesting option if Portland’s season continues down the lottery path.