Take every stereotype you might have about a European prospect and throw it out the window.
Israeli-born Deni Avdija is the biggest-name international prospect in this year's NBA Draft and he's accomplished that title by playing an American-style game. Defensive toughness, determination on the glass, and of course-swagger.
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Avdija is dripping with confidence every time he steps on the floor and that fearlessness will serve him well when he arrives in North America. Watching him compete for Maccabi Tel Aviv, one of the best clubs in Europe, he was often the loudest trash talker on the floor and his desire to dominate his opponent was apparent.
Yes, Avdija plays with the typical fundamentals and polish we've seen from European talent but it's the blend of those skills and North American boldness that makes him so enticing. That, and the fact he plays with unmistakable finesse at 6'9" makes him one of the most fascinating players in the class.
Most of Avdija's value as a prospect comes from his playmaking ability as a 6'9" forward. Showing great flexibility to get a low dribble for a man his size he can protect the rock while weaving around ball screens, and when he gets into the teeth of the defence he has a variety of tools. The option to pull up with a high-release jumper that is near impossible to block is always there and he's also more than willing to take it all the way to the cup and initiate contact. If there is a pass to be made he'll recognize it and use his length to create the passing angle and with his great sense of poise - he seldom throws the ball away recklessly.
One of Avdija's most desirable traits is his general feel for the game. Incredibly intelligent when moving away from the ball he feasts on easy buckets from back cuts or slipped screens when he sees a lapse in defence. His ability to create offence with the ball in his hands with his driving ability or off the ball with his savvy shows great maturity for a young player and it should help him be effective early in his NBA career.
More than just an offensive threat, Avdija is a physical defender who takes pride on that side of the floor. Not only does he have the mindset to produce on the defensive end but he has solid athleticism that separates him from similar European forward prospects in recent history. That athleticism helps him as a shot-blocker and when it comes to leaping above the pack to get a rebound which should also help him adjust to the NBA game.
Perhaps the most appealing element of Avdija as a prospect is that the combination of his athleticism and defence make him feel like a safe bet and his elite offensive upside gives him a chance at being a star. He displays a lot of the traits of a primary scorer in the NBA but also excels at role player qualities and that could help him early in his professional journey. Out of the gate, he could offer value as an auxiliary piece supporting an established star, all while he continues to develop those starter calibre skills he already has.
While he's been an effective scorer at multiple levels he still relies a lot on his savvy to get buckets and doesn't have the quick first step or straight-line speed he may need to beat NBA defenders regularly. His great touch and intelligence have got him to this point in his career but there may come a time where he needs to be better at the simple things to be an effective scorer.
Right now the jump shot is a bit of a concern. Mechanically it doesn't look totally out of whack but simply put, in recent competition he just hasn't been able to hit enough shots. He hit only 28% of his threes in the Euroleague last season and 29% in his last two FIBA European Champions so there has to be some worry. Furthermore, he only shot 60% from the free-throw line last season so there definitely appears to be a problem with his stroke.
Because of his jump shot struggles, there are going to be teams that see him as a power forward and when you view him through that lens he's a bit thin at 215 pounds. If he can't hit enough shots to play the wing he may not be able to demonstrate the skills that make him an elite prospect.
Projected NBA Draft Position: 3-7
Projected NBA Role: Secondary Scorer
NBA Comparison: Ceiling: Detlef Schrempf
Floor: Kelly Oubre Jr.
The views expressed here do not represent those of the NBA or its clubs.