Updated: Nov 18, 2020
For the first time in NBA draft history, an Israeli is expected to be drafted in the lottery (the top part of the first round comprised of teams who did not make the playoffs) - and could end up quite possibly in the top 5 overall selections. Meet Deni Avdija...
Avdija, an 19-year old, 6"9, 220-pound small forward, led Israel to the championship in two out of the last three European Under-20 basketball tournaments (coming in second in the other one). He also just led Maccabi Tel Aviv to the championship where he was named the MVP of the regular season at just 18 years old. Now he is is set to take his talents to the NBA.
As a tour guide of Israel and avid sports fan, I will miss watching him play for Maccabi Tel Aviv. As those who have toured Israel with me can attest to, there is nothing like watching a baskeball game in person in Israel (think crazy soccer atmosphere inside an arena with songs, bands, etc.). At least we have Omri Casspi back in Israel these days (after a long career in the USA) as well as Ama're Stoudemire. The question on everyone's minds right now, however, is just where will Avdija end up?
Well first let's take a look at the draft prospect himself. On the court, he appears to be a "jack of all trades, master of none" kind of player, with his best trait being his advanced play-making for his size and his biggest problem being his shooting (which improved late this last season), especially his free-throw shooting and his ability to drive and finish with his off-hand.
An introduction - his background might surprise you.
A scouting report:
Here is a mix-tape of his highlights from this past year...
And here are his highlights from the Under-20 European championships where he was the MVP in leading Israel to the championship.
Finally, here is Avdija announcing that he declared for the 2020 NBA Draft back in April on ESPN's show Get Up. ESPN at the time had him projected to be the 6th pick in the draft to the NY Knicks (that would be one way to invigorate a starving fan base - give 1 million Jews an Israeli player to root for), though at this time they are ranking him as the 4th best prospect in the draft and the Knicks actually ended up with the 8th pick. https://www.espn.com/nba/draft/bestavailable
So where will Avdija be drafted? While there are hundreds of mock drafts out there online, here are some of the most recent and noted ones:
https://www.si.com/nba/2020/11/16/nba-mock-draft-latest-updates-rumors-daily-cover - 4th to the Chicago Bulls (this one seems to make the most sense to me)
https://nbadraft.theringer.com/ - also 4th to the Bulls
https://sports.yahoo.com/nba-mock-draft-volume-three-122734781.html - also 4th to the Bulls
http://www.tankathon.com/mock_draft - also 4th to the Bulls
https://www.cbssports.com/nba/news/nba-mock-draft-2020-lamelo-ball-goes-no-1-to-timberwolves-james-wiseman-selected-no-2-by-warriors/ - 5th to the Cleveland Cavaliers (whom many Israelis are annoyed with after they fired Israeli coach David Blatt in the year they won the NBA championship, however their new general manager is named Koby)
https://www.nbcsports.com/boston/celtics/2020-nba-mock-draft-final-projections-all-30-first-round-picks - 6th to the Atlanta Hawks
Meanwhile, the Athletic (an excellent paid site) has Avdija at 4th (both Sam Vecenie and James Edwards) and 6th (John Hollinger).
https://www.nba.com/news/2020-consensus-mock-draft - this is a consensus mock draft meaning they scanned mock drafts all across the web and came up with the most likely picks
for each spot... so where do they put Avdija? 4th to the Bulls. Sweet Home Chicago.
Also important to note is that another Israeli player, guard Yam Madar of Hapoel Tel Aviv, has declared for the draft and is hoping to be drafted in the second round.
Here are two draft profiles: https://www.nba.com/draft/2020/prospects/yam-madar#/
(they have him being drafted 58th)
Plus here is a scouting video:
So where will Avdija (and hopefully Madar) end up?
Which team is about to become "Israel's team?"
Tune in at 8PM EST on November 18th (3AM Israel time on the 19th) to find out!
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