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Deni Avdija is the NBA’s Next International Star
AP Photo/Antonio Calanni

It’s rare for a 19-year-old to be the most experienced in a group, unless it comes to life experience.

Deni Avdija holds that title in the 2020 NBA Draft class.

With three professional seasons under his belt, Avdija has played in what most closely resembles an NBA environment.

It’s this experience and diverse skill set that project him near the top of the draft.

Deni Avdija Basketball Career

In 2017, Avdija — born in Beit Zera, Israel — started his professional career with Maccabi Tel Aviv of the Israeli League at age 16, becoming the youngest player to ever play for the club’s senior team. In his brief Israeli career, the power forward enabled winning. The individual accolades followed:

— 3x Israeli League champion (2018-20)
— Israeli League MVP (2020)
— All-Israeli League First Team (2020)
— Israeli League Cup winner (2017)
— FIBA U20 European Championship MVP (2019)
— Euroleague Magic Moment (2020)

Avdija has played on the international stage from a young age. He attended the Adidas Next Generation Tournament in Munhich in January 2019 and the Basketball Without Borders Global Camp in Charlotte, North Carolina during the 2019 NBA All-Star Weekend.

As part of the Israeli national team, Avdija has competed in multiple FIBA European Championships in 2017-19. He was named to the All-Tournament teams in 2018 and 2019, earning MVP in 2019.

Avdija comes from a line of athletes. His father, Zufer Avdija played professional basketball in former Yugoslavia and Israel. His mother, Sharon Artzi, ran track and field and played basketball as well.

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Deni Avidja NBA Draft Stock

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At 6-foot-9 and 220 pounds with a wingspan that matches his height, the Israeli basketball player has a highly-skilled arsenal. He’s fluid as a ball-handler, passer, and playmaker. He’s reminiscent of fellow European forwards Danilo Gallinari and Dario Saric. His scoring isn’t nearly as polished as Gallinari, but he posses superior playmaking abilities. His biggest knock is his jump shot’s consistency.

In 26 Euroleague games during the 2019-20 campaign, he shot a concerning 55.6% from the free-throw line.

Avdija is a projected top-10 first round pick, landing as high as the top-5 in some mock drafts. He’s projected to be selected sixth by the Atlanta Hawks in ESPN‘s latest draft outlook.

He sits in a tier just outside of top prospects LaMelo Ball, Anthony Edwards, and James Wiseman. The Golden State Warriors like him, but it’s unclear what they’ll do with the second-overall pick behind the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Avdija is one of the rare draft prospects who was able to play competitively during the coronavirus pandemic and COVID-19 outbreak. After a three-month hiatus, the Israeli League resumed play in June. Avdija came out guns blazing, leading Maccabi Tel Aviv through the playoffs to the Israeli League championship and becoming the youngest player to ever win the Israeli League MVP.

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In the offseason, Avdija’s been training in Atlanta.

Luka Doncic has become the face of international NBA stars. Avdija won’t be the next Doncic, who knows if anyone will, but he’s further proof of the growth of global basketball.

MORE: Isaac Okoro’s Parents Came from Nigeria, And Raised a Future Star

Joe Grobeck About the author:
Joe is a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and lives in Austin, Texas. He believes Ndaumkong Suh should've won the 2009 Heisman and is an avid basketball fan.
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