The Golden State Warriors are the most talked-about team heading into the 2020 NBA Draft. The Dubs have reportedly been interested in every prospect projected to go in the top seven picks. Even then, NBA Insiders also think the Warriors are the most likely to trade their selection.
One prospect who has the potential to be a great fit in head coach Steve Kerr’s system is Israeli forward Deni Avdija. The Athletic’s Ethan Strauss says Golden State was impressed with the 19-year-old’s performance during a pre-draft workout and loved how he answered questions during an interview with the team.
However, former NBA executive John Hollinger and draft expert Chad Ford aren’t bullish on how Avdija’s game will transition to North America. Avdija played for Maccabi Tel Aviv this past season and won the Israeli League MVP averaging 12.9 points and 6.3 rebounds.
But, when playing against better competition in the EuroLeague, Avdija’s stats plummeted. He put up just 4.0 points snd 2.6 boards per game. Scouts and league executives are concerned about Avdija’s shooting. While he connected on a respectable 35.3% of his 3-point attempts in the Israeli League, he shot just 27.7% in the EuroLeague.
The 6’9 forward also struggles to hit his free throws, shooting 55.6% from the charity stripe. Avdija’s stroke has been tweaked a few times, but some scouts believe he will improve his shooting numbers when he makes the jump to North America with better coaching.
Hollinger was on a recent episode of Ford’s podcast and discussed their biggest concern about Avdija going into next month’s draft (h/t Drew Shiller of NBC Bay Area)
“I struggle to get too excited about him,” Hollinger said. “I just don’t think the quality of the league is very good. I’m debating whether I had him too low just from the perspective that he’s big and can handle the ball. He has (those) two things going for him right away.
“But I also think he has to be able to shoot. I don’t think he has a pathway to being a high-level NBA player without being a good shooter. And right now he’s not. That’s a little troublesome for me.”
“There’s hype around this international player. Everybody loves his approach to the game,” Ford said. ”He’s ultra-aggressive, he’s super confident, there is that sort of ‘it swagger’ to his game.
“(But) that’s exactly right — to excel in the NBA, he has to be a good 3-point shooter. He is definitely in the conversation with teams as high as four, five and six. I didn’t really find any team that has him out of the top 10.”
Eran Soroka, who covers the NBA and EuroLeague in Israel, says Avdija’s shot looked much-improved when play resumed following the Coronavirus shutdown.
“He can be very streaky. He will shoot 40% one month, and then fall to like 10% the next month. But, I think now in the last couple of weeks, Advija has an advantage over the other prospects because he is playing. He’s playing against professionals in the Israeli League, he let every one see he’s growing his confidence in his shot. During the shutdown Advija concentrated on improving his shooting.”
During a recent media availability, Avdija said he has been taking hundreds of shots a day in preparation for transitioning to the NBA. Avdija was asked how he would potentially fit with the Dubs and was genuinely excited about the possibility.
“This team is a great team, with a lot of great guys and good All-Star players I can learn from,” Avdija said. “I think it’s a great experience, I’ll be excited wherever I go, but to be a championship contender, that’s a great opportunity.”
Avdija’s natural ability isn’t lost on scouts. He has the size to grow into a competent defender who can guard multiple positions on switches. His ball-handling skills are second-to-none, and has enough basketball IQ to mask his lack of explosiveness.
European forwards are tough to peg. Dirk Nowitzki developed into a Hall of Famer after being selected ninth overall in the 1998 NBA Draft. Nowitzki averaged 8.2 points and 3.4 rebounds for the Dallas Mavericks in his rookie season. But, he put the work in to improve his game and went on to become league MVP.
On the flip side is Andrea Bargnani. The Toronto Raptors selected the Italian forward No. 1 in 2006 in the hopes he will develop into the next Nowitzki. Bargnani’s rookie numbers were slightly better than Dirk’s, averaging 11.6 points and 3.8 rebounds, but he never fulfilled his potential.
Avdija is an intriguing fit for Golden State because of how the Dubs play the game. Kerr encourages sharing the ball and movement, something that suits Avdija’s offensive game. It’s probably a stretch for the Dubs to take him at No. 2 this year, but they can trade back and still nab Avdija a few spots down.
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On to some links:
We will know in the coming days when the NBA will officially begin the 2020 offseason. The Athletic’s Ethan Strauss looks at the two biggest decisions facing Golden State.
The mock drafts continue to roll in. Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer released his latest mock and has the Dubs taking a guard at No. 2 after a team trades up to No. 1.
There are questions about Anthony Edwards’ drive. His college head coach, Tom Crean, caught up with Sports Illustrated’s Jeremy Woo to discuss Edwards’ time at Indiana.