Team: Maccabi Tel Aviv
The first thing that separates Avdija from most forwards is his ability to play-make. He just finds ways to get the ball to his target whether it’s a lob, bounce, skip, or whip pass around a defender. Deni has the ability to process these things in the moment and decipher how to get it there and the unteachable creativeness to execute. He also likes to push the ball ahead in a “Kevin Love” type manner where he throws these full-court passes to teammates streaking towards the hoop. As a dribbler, Advija will rarely turn it over as he protects his dribble very well. When shooting, he has very promising upper body mechanics. It’s fairly quick, has a high release point, and doesn’t get phased with a defender closing out. When his lower body is set, he does a great job of getting his balance under him. This is a great trait to have especially if you’re attempting step-back jumpers. Having poor balance on step-backs is almost a guarantee that the shot will be short. Generally speaking, Deni doesn’t take many bad shots. He understands what good offense is and plays his role to help his team achieve that. An area he will be great at the next level is his ability to move off the ball. Avdija has a great sense for cutting and that will help him get a lot of easy baskets in the NBA. When there is good spacing and a lack of urgency by many defenders, it’s hard to not see that part of his game translating. Physically speaking, it’s good to see his height as 6’9 with a decent frame for a 19-year-old. Avdija also has impressive straight-line speed that allows him to be effective in transition. Deni Avdija has a natural fight to him on the court. He is willing to be physical and do what is necessary. On offense, he even added a post-game to punish smaller players. While his post-game is not advanced, it’s effective. He usually throws up a hook shot to his right and converts at a good rate. It wouldn’t surprise me though if he improves in this aspect. In an interview with Draft Express’s Mike Schmidtz, he talked about how he just loves playing in the post and has shown flashes of fadeaways even that look good. While this may not make him a superstar, it will allow him to punish switches. Another area where his physicality pays off is on the glass. Deni is very good at coming from the perimeter and collapsing to help out his bigs. Also, when Deni does get the rebound, that’s where his combination of playmaking, selflessness, and straight-line speed play a role. Another aspect of Deni’s game is his ability to throw it down. While he is not a flashy dunker, he is quite effective when he does get up. Avdija can dunk in traffic when he wants to and is comfortable using either hand. Defensively, he has grown tremendously over the last year. He has bought in to playing team defense and has even become a weak-side rim protector at times. He knew his team didn’t have a true rim protector, so Deni was the one to step up and help negate his team’s biggest flaw. Avdija is a really good communicator as well. Individually, he should be able to hold his own against select matchups. He does a decent job of staying in a stance and just putting in the effort. I have heard phenomenal things towards his effort and determination. Always gets to practice early, last one to leave, and will shoot around after bad games. All the cliches you’ve heard apply to him.
One of Deni’s biggest struggles has been his 3-ball. Avdija hasn’t shot the ball great in his latest season with Maccabi shooting 27.7%. There are two main reasons to fault for why this has been the case. The first one is that his body crunches where he is not going straight up and down anymore. His lower half tightens up and influences the shot. The other reason is that Deni’s legs will flair to the side like he’s doing a jumping jack. He generally kicks his legs out when he’s shooting off the dribble. Now some might argue someone like J.J. Reddick will do the same thing with his legs. The difference is, Avdija is skipping steps. Deni is not a great shooter, so he needs to be more fundamentally sound and consistent with his mechanics than a J.J. Reddick who is one of the best shooters in the world. He has shown very little mid-range ability throughout this season. Avdija has not been great in the pick and roll. He can improve on changing speeds to help the unpredictability of his moves as well as making it easier to draw fouls. Deni has been better when the defender fights over the screen generally, but when the defender goes under, that’s when he is going to be forced to punish a defense with a jump shot. Furthermore, he has also not been great when finishing on drives if he’s not dunking it. Avdija hasn’t had a very soft touch or gone up strong on layups to draw contact and force the issue against a set defense. While his playmaking is above average for a forward, he still struggles in select areas. First off, his vision isn’t special. He mostly makes first level reads. Another area is his accuracy. Deni’s accuracy is most definitely above average for a forward, but it isn’t consistent. Part of this is because he does force passes sometimes and makes it very difficult for himself to convert the pass. As a dribbler, Avdija is conservative to a fault as he doesn’t break his man off of the dribble very often. He needs to work on changing speeds too. This will help him, especially in the pick and roll. He also has shown zero intention to penetrate going left. In the same interview mentioned earlier, he claims he is capable of doing it, but gets nervous and doesn’t want to let his team down. This shows he isn’t comfortable with his left hand and needs practice. It is very different playing Overseas versus NCAA players. Playing in Europe means facing grown men and some even have NBA experience. Deni also only averaged 14.3 MPG so he could be taken out if he turns the ball over twice and won’t play the rest of the game as his leash is not as long as these other highly coveted draft prospects playing at Kentucky or Duke. It is easy to understand that fear so that is something teams will want to work on in private workouts and see how much work his weak-hand needs. Athletically, there isn’t much to love as he only has a +1.5 wingspan. He also doesn’t have great lateral quickness. This hurts his defensive ceiling as he will only be able to guard select matchups. Avdija could also add another 10 lbs to help him defensively. Overall, his ceiling as an individual defender is fairly low. Deni isn’t very quick in general. He’s not great at changing directions while maintaining his impressive straight-line speed that was mentioned earlier. He doesn’t have an impressive vertical. Deni’s game is going to have to rely on skill and IQ more so than most other prospects.
Deni Avdija has a lot of skills that can help him contribute pretty early in his career. His 3 pointer will be the main key to how high his ceiling is. The rest of his game I expect to develop and grow as there are unique qualities to him. In his interview with Mike Schmidtz, it was undeniable how good his memory was. As Schmidtz showed the first few seconds of a clip, he would ask Deni “Do you remember this play? What happened?” And almost every time, he was spot on. That shows how he spends his free time and his dedication to his craft. Another thing to look at is how much he improved on the defensive end of the floor this past season. Avdija admitted that he never tried defensively until the coaches at Maccabi challenged him and he became the vocal leader of that defense. A lot of his maturity questions have been answered and it’s evident how committed he is. Based on his dedication to his craft, I tend to believe that his outside shot and vision as a passer should improve with time. This will make Avdija a versatile threat for any offense. His overall maturity level can help establish a culture for the team that drafts him. While I do like his basketball IQ, I feel it necessary to point out that he is not at the level of a Luka Doncic. This, in combination with his limited defensive ceiling, slightly lowers his stock as a prospect. Overall, the positive traits of Deni Avdija far outweigh the negatives, making him a high-level lottery prospect.
Article Written By Bradley Patten
Stats found on Basketball-Reference (https://www.basketball-reference.com/international/players/deni-avdija-1.html)
Deni Avdija interview with Draft Express (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wM2muYg5OBE)
Photo Credit to Getty Images (https://www.forbes.com/sites/evandammarell/2019/09/30/deni-avdija-is-someone-cavalier-fans-should-become-familiar-with-this-year/#3c05dfc65d0d)