On Thursday, less than a month before the 2020 NBA Draft, the Golden State Warriors met in person with Deni Avdija, a 19-year-old wing currently playing for Maccabi Tel Aviv in the Israeli Basketball Premier League.
Not only did Avdija perform well in the workouts, but Warriors officials were blown away after meeting with him. The universal takeaway was that he’s a “great kid” with an immense work ethic.
The Warriors certainly have a full spread of options with the second overall pick, as they can opt to take the player they think is most ready to contribute or the player they think will be best down the road. Or, of course, they can trade the pick.
If the Warriors are as high on Avdija’s intangibles as Strauss’ report suggests, it’s fair to wonder whether that could be the determining factor.
Golden State is in a bit of an odd position. They have legitimate championship aspirations thanks to their star trio of Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green. They have quality veterans in Kevon Looney, Damion Lee, and Andrew Wiggins, and will likely add to that group in free agency. They have high impact up-and-comers like Eric Paschall and Marquese Chriss.
But they have a lot of youth, and a lot of inexperience. The team will already be carrying three second-year players who had truncated rookie seasons — Paschall, Jordan Poole, and Alen Smailagic. Another trio of second year players — Ky Bowman, Mychal Mulder, and Juan Toscano-Anderson — will be in the mix to make the roster.
Rolling the dice on a raw rookie is a dangerous game for this team. And after watching the D’Angelo Russell experiment go down the drain, it’s safe to say that they have zero interest in drafting a player whose intangibles they’re not in enamored with.
So are the intangibles enough? Is it worth prioritizing someone who the team knows will show up early to practice, work hard every day, and dedicate himself to selflessly studying the All-Stars ahead of him?
That’s not to say that Avdija isn’t also immensely talented. He’s just not seen by most as top-two material — The Ringer has him as the number 5 prospect in the draft, and The Athletic lists him as number 10. But he might be close enough to number 2 that it’s worth taking him, if he’s got the championship mettle that the Dubs are craving.
That just might be enough. I think it is.