NBA fans look back now on past drafts and wonder how Luka Doncic fell to the No. 3 pick in 2018 or how Giannis Antetokounmpo dropped to No. 15 in 2013.
Could Deni Avdija be the next international star to slip and be a steal?
The Wizards drafted the 19-year-old Israeli forward with the No. 9 pick in Wednesday’s 2020 NBA Draft, and the hype is already growing for what he could become.
“I think this is going to be the steal of the draft, to be honest,” ESPN analyst Mike Schmitz said on the broadcast. “I think Deni Avdija, when we look back five years from now, we’re going to see a guy who could be the best player even to come out of this draft. And it starts with his basketball IQ and his versatility. He’s tremendous in the open court and he has great size, [6-foot-9]. He’s a fiery competitor, 225 pounds.
“He’s tremendous getting downhill to his right. He’s great at attacking closeouts. He can really facilitate and an underrated defender as well. He’s very multi-positional on that end of the floor and he can put you on a poster in space. He’s really improved as a perimeter shooter as well. He can handle the ball. I think he has a chance to become not just a 3-and-D type of wing, but a guy who can also be a secondary playmaker as well. I love his upside.”
Avdija played the last two seasons professionally for Maccabi Tel Aviv in the EuroLeague, averaging four points per game after debuting at the age of 16 as the youngest player in club history. But he also led Israel to a pair of gold medals in the FIBA U20 European Championship, earning the MVP of the tournament in 2019.
Before becoming the highest-drafted player ever from Israel, his star was already rising.
“He’s Jesus over here,” former NBA player Omri Casspi, a teammate of Avdija’s on Maccabi Tel Aviv, told Yahoo Sports.
While some have tried to make comparisons between Avdija and Doncic because of their size and versatility, the newest Wizard wants to chart his own path in the NBA.
“Luka is one of a kind. What he did the last two years is unbelievable,” Avdija told Yahoo Sports. “It made a statement to the NBA that basketball is a global game. I just want to have my own legacy and showcase my own abilities.”
Many mock drafts had Avdija projected to go No. 4 to the Chicago Bulls. He ended up having to wait a bit longer to hear his name called, but if Avdija’s swagger and competitiveness translate to the NBA, the Wizards might just have one of the top talents to come out of this year’s draft.
“Of all the prospects we’ll talk about, he is the most experienced and game-ready for high-level basketball,” former Cavaliers coach David Blatt, who spent much of his career coaching in Israel, told NBATV. “I believe he’s a guy who can step into an NBA game right now and play.”
#Wizards #Deni #Avdija #turn #steal #NBA #draft
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