The Trail Blazers’ 2019-20 season is firmly in the rearview mirror and the 2020 NBA Draft is now on the horizon. As of now, the draft is scheduled for November 18. Unlike last year, the Blazers enter the process with two picks at their disposal. Portland currently owns the No. 16 pick in the first round and the No. 46 pick in the second round.
Today’s profile focuses on Deni Avdija, a forward from Israel who projects to be one of the top picks in the 2020 NBA Draft.
- Height: 6’9”
- Weight: 215
- Wingspan: 6’9”
- Shoots: Right
- Position: F
- Age: 19
- Projected draft range: 2-10
2019-20 Statistics (I-BSL)
- PTS: 12.9 | Per 36: 18.0
- REB: 6.3 | Per 36: 8.2
- AST: 2.7 | Per 36: 3.5
- BLK: 1.0 | Per 36: 1.3
- STL: 0.9 | Per 36: 1.2
- FG%: 52.6
- 3P%: 35.3
- FT%: 59.4
The biggest thing that stands out about Deni Avdija’s game is his playmaking. The 6-foot-9 forward is an excellent playmaker for his size, he is comfortable with the ball in his hands and he almost always making the right passes. Avdija can handle the ball well enough to act as the point forward for teams—capable of pushing the ball up the court and finding open players or making his way to the rim by shifting speed when needed. He’s also a smart post player who loves finding cutters when positioned on the block. When moving downhill, he’s an ambidextrous finisher at the rim.
Defensively, he’s not a total ball-stopper, but he’s smart. Avdija is an excellent team defender, someone who knows when to rotate and how to put himself in the best position at all times. He’s not a freak athlete by any means, but he does know how to use his strength to deter guys coming at him. At the very least, he won’t be a minus on this end.
Currently, shooting is the biggest concern for Avdija. His numbers are not favorable from any spot on the floor, and since 2017 he’s made just 56 percent of his free throws. Free throw percentage is often used as an indicator of shooting potential, and it’s extremely rare for someone that bad from the line to thrive at the next level. As noted earlier, he’s not exactly a super athlete, so if he doesn’t continue to progress as a ball handler, he’ll struggle to create for himself.
While he is a superb defender off the ball, he’s not as good on it. He works hard, but he can’t really contain quicker players and he might struggle with bigger NBA competition. The fact that his wingspan is equal to his height is not ideal and that doesn’t bode well for him as a rim protector. The hope is that Avdija can work to improve his agility and quickness in order to guard smaller players. But until that happens, he won’t help much in isolation.
Avdija played for Maccabi Tel Aviv for the 2019-20 season in both the Euroleague and the Israeli Basketball Premier League. He was excellent in the I-BSL, averaging almost 13 points a game and becoming the youngest MVP in league history. However, he did not post similar numbers in limited minutes during Euroleague play. In those competitions, he averaged only 4.0 points, 2.6 rebounds, and 1.2 assists throughout the season.
There’s a reason Deni Avdija is regarded as one of the top players in this draft. He has a unique skill set for his size and the best feel for the game out of all forwards in his class. There are real concerns about his shooting and on-ball defending, but he’s a smart player who knows how to make up for most of his deficiencies. Despite the question marks that surround him, Avdija ranks as one of the best in the class.
Avdija would fit in well with the Trail Blazers. A 6’9” point forward who can be trusted with playmaking responsibilities while providing solid team defense? Sure! An all-around smart player who just needs a reliable shot to become an offensive force? We love it! Unfortunately, that probably won’t matter much because the likelihood of Avdija falling anywhere in the range where the Blazers are drafting is low.
There’s probably a universe where Neil Olshey decides to trade up into the top five to get Avdija, but it’s hard to imagine that we’re living in it. When Nov. 18 comes, Avdija at the very least is one of the 10 best prospects on the board, and it’s hard to imagine any of those teams drafting in the top 10 passing on him.