By Stefan Djordjevic/ firstname.lastname@example.org
An in-depth look into NBA draft prospect Deni Avdija by Aleksandar Dzikic through Sportklub’s “BLOK po BLOK” podcast. “He’s a player that, I think, will be highly ranked at this year’s draft. And that is not a surprise at all,” he opened regarding the 2020 NBA draft projections for the 19-year-old upstart coming off a solid season with Maccabi Tel Aviv.
“Primarily, he has been tested in the best competition after the NBA,” the 49-year-old head coach went on, “From all those players, that are by default a ‘cat in the sack’. You don’t know how they will develop, how they will adjust to something new. He has the least unknowns. Why? He was quite active in EuroLeague and he was even a dominant player for Maccabi Tel Aviv in the Israeli League’s final phase. He was starting games for Maccabi, he was finishing games for Maccabi. Was he the primary solution in the offense? No, surely no and he wasn’t among some primary options but, with the qualities he owns, he showed ha can do what will be asked of him in the NBA, at least in the beginning.”
Avdija remains a work in progress despite his Maccabi status. He is only 19, dedicated to putting in the work necessary in order to match his goals moving forward. “His natural role is a forward, which means that in some small ball variants he can be a kind of a power forward. He’s got enough height, his size is satisfactory for the age. Big enough and high enough for what’s expected from him,” said Dzikic, “What is very important is that he was a dominant player in younger categories against players two or three years older than him. Seeing him against those other twenty-year-olds, it was a really big difference.”
“The first thing I like about him is the energy, he plays with a very high level of energy,” he added describing the promising youngster, “Meaning, he runs the transition, he plays with pretty high intensity, plays off the ball. Secondly, he is physically ready for what awaits him. He is not inferior. He’s not dominating, far from it but neither is inferior and it’s a good parameter before going there [to the NBA]. Next, he is accustomed to a role that he will most likely have in the NBA early on.”
The right fit is key for any rookie drafted by an NBA team. Dzikic threw in suggestions for his landing spot. “I hope he will find a team that will play realistically through him in the offense with those qualities of his, the movement off the ball and passing,” he mentioned, “He sees and wants to pass, and understands the passing. That part of basketball is simply natural to him. Something that some players never fully grasp, for him, it’s natural at only 19 years old.”
“He was very active in the Israeli League final phase and showed that he can play in a ‘higher gear’ and more with the ball. He plays pick and rolls – and it is certainly an advantage when you have a forward that can play pick and roll – but a thing that is obvious at the moment is that he doesn’t see himself as the solution in those situations. He always looks to pass first and that makes the job easier for the defense,” he added, “Another thing, he was dominant on the low post in younger categories and he showed that he can also do it [at EuroLeague level] against some players such as Krunoslav Simon, Rudy Fernandez, San Emeterio, Janis Timma. He plays against them with toughness, doesn’t run from physical contact, he can score at the rim, etc.”
Avdija’s final season with Maccabi saw him average 4.0 points per Turkish Airlines EuroLeague contest with 43.6% from the field and 27.7% beyond the arc. At the domestic level, he posted 13.5 points per match with 55% on field goals and 38.7% from long-range.
“Shooting-wise, as is the case with most players, if you give him enough time to set up, I think he’s shooting mechanic is good, he’s ready to shoot, he has full confidence,” claimed the experienced head coach, “What I like is that he takes very important shots. Of course, he hits some, he misses some. What is problematic with his shot is that, occasionally, he ‘locks’ his lower back and that might be the reason for his lower percentages ni those situations. I don’t know why it happens but I believe that the specific habit will be removed with time. I don’t think that will be a problem. I think he’s smart, competitive, wants to pass, and wants to win.”