Deni Avdija: A Promising NBA Draft Prospect with Serious Red Flags

Deni Avdija: A Promising NBA Draft Prospect with Serious Red Flags

Deni Avdija Overview:

Deni Avdija possesses one of the high basketball IQ’s in the 2020 NBA Draft. He takes smart shots and makes smart passes. While most people are high on Deni Avdija, he has some significant red flags that are being overlooked. 

It’s understandable why scouts and fans are high on Deni Avdija. Avdija will be coming into the NBA with the decision making required from a modern wing. He appears to possess a solid handle as well. These aspects of his game have led to comparisons to another smart playmaking wing out of the Euroleague. This player is of course the young superstar Luka Doncic. 

Doncic came into the NBA with an extremely high basketball IQ and incredible court vision. I would say that Avdija possesses a similar level of  basketball IQ to Doncic at the same age, but while his court vision is good, it is not Doncic level. Avdija also possesses a similar level of speed. With the spacing of the NBA this is a good level of speed for a small forward or power forward. 

In 2016 we saw Dragan Bender go fourth overall in the NBA Draft. At the time we had only seen hints of what Bender could do. Bender had not done enough to justify going this high in the draft. Bender was drafted due to his comparisons to Kristaps Porzingis. At this time Porzingis had proven he could be a physical, defensive stretch 5. Plenty of teams, including the Phoenix Suns, wanted to replicate Porzingis’ success. We only had a small sample size of what Bender was capable of at a high level of basketball. 

I am very concerned that Deni Avdija will be the Dragan Bender to Doncic’s Kristaps Porzingis. While we have seen glimpses of high quality basketball from Avdija, his shooting percentages and small sample size of games played do not convince me he should be a top 5 pick. If Avdija is drafted too high I would not be surprised to see him become an NBA draft bust. 

Defensively Avdija shows a lot of awareness and intelligence. What Avdija lacks in lateral quickness and reaction times, he makes up for in positioning and decision making. I think at this time Avdija is going to need to put on a little more strength to be an effective defender in the NBA, but I think long term this will be the best position for him to defend. 

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Physical Profile

Deni Avdija is generally listed at 6 foot 8 or 6 foot 9. Whichever one of these heights ends up being his barefoot height, he should have no problem filling in at either forward position in the NBA. 

Avdija is listed as having a 6 foot 9 or 6 foot 10 wingspan. These measurements are adequate for a forward at the NBA level. While not overly impressive, Avdija’s defensive abilities  won’t be dependent on how long he is, but rather how smart he is on defense. 

At 225 pounds (100kg) Deni is at a solid weight physically. In order to play more power forward he is going to need to continue to put on more strength. However at his current age I am not discouraged by this size. 

From a physical point of view Deni is mostly what you want out of a young forward. While not overly long, he has solid speed, strength and height. I believe that Avdija should not have a problem transitioning to the NBA physically.

Statistics Interpretations

Deni Avdija stats from RealGM

Deni Avdija’s stats highlight both the strengths and weaknesses of his game. Through his stats we can see he is generally an effective scorer, with solid rebounding abilities and quality passing. 

The biggest red flag of Deni Avdija’s game for myself is his shooting. Watching Avdija knock down jumpers during practice is impressive. But his solid shooting form doesn’t appear to translate to in game situations. Avdija’s stats at multiple levels and age groups show that he is an inconsistent 3pt shooter and a subpar free throw shooter. In order to become a high calibre NBA player, Avdija is going to need to drastically improve his shooting ability. 

While Avdija shot a capable 35.3% from the 3pt line in the Israeli League, he only shot 27.7% from the 3pt line in the EuroLeague. Neither of these percentages is great but that is not where the concern begins. NBA scouts often use a player’s free throw percentage to determine whether their shooting will translate to the NBA. In 2020 we saw Avdija shoot 59.4% and 55.6% from the free throw line in the Israeli League and the Euroleague respectively. These percentages are not too different from the free throw percentages Avdija has shot in previous years and other levels.

Due to the little improvement in Avdija’s free throw percentage and his fluctuating 3pt percentage I am not convinced that he will be able to shoot at the next level. For a team to draft Avdija in the top 5 they must be convinced that his jump shot can be improved. If Avdija had a proven jumpshot I would have him as one of the best players in the draft. Unfortunately I don’t see Avdija becoming a good shooter in the foreseeable shooter. I do not rule out Avdija developing into a good shooter, we have seen players develop a jump shot later in their career. Avdija’s work ethic is not in question either. However his stats don’t support him becoming an NBA level shooter anytime soon, if not ever. 

NBA Comparisons

I have really struggled to find an appropriate comparison for Deni Avdija. Others have compared him to Hedo Turkoglu and Detlef Schrempf. I don’t believe that Avdija has the shooting potential of either of these two players. However Avdija could potentially be an athletic version of  Turkoglu with more defense, but less shooting range. Avdija plays with great intensity and intelligence. Nicolas Batum could also be a good comparison. Although Batum shot a higher free throw percentage at the same age, he shot a lower 3pt percentage. 

Another player that Avdija reminds me of is Dario Saric. Saric was known for making smart cuts and passes. In the NBA Saric has played well, but has not lived up to the overexaggerated hype that was attached to him. If Avdija could become a more athletic Saric I think he can have a good career. 

Deni Avdija NBA Fits


Deni looks like he could be a solid fit for the Wolves. As much as I think they are looking for players with better shooting potential, his ability to play with energy and improve his teammates would benefit the team. I don’t think Avdija is good enough for the Timberwolves to draft him first overall. But if the Timberwolves want to trade down for Deni he could potentially be worth drafting. 

Golden State Warriors

I don’t see Deni Avdija fitting into the Golden State Warriors roster. While their coaching staff could potentially improve his shot, I don’t believe he offers the immediate help or floor spacing the team needs. 

Charlotte Hornets

If the Hornets are convinced that Avdija is the best player available then they should by all means select Avdija. However I believe that there are better players to draft. Avdija could fit next to either Miles Bridges or PJ Washington on the Charlotte roster. But with players such as Onyeka Okongwu and Killian Hayes likely still being available I can’t recommend taking Avdija over them.

Chicago Bulls

Chicago could be a decent fit for Avdija. If they view Otto Porter as their starting small forward for the time being, Avdija could be developed off the bench. He also could be developed behind Lauri Markanned at power forward. Due to Avdija’s versatility he could be a great backup 3/4 that could be developed into a starter at either position over time. His passing ability will allow him to create for cutters like LaVine and Coby White. His defensive intensity would also be very welcome on this roster. This is my ideal place for Avdija to get drafted as it is the best place for him to be developed and earn playing time. 

Cleveland Cavaliers

Avdija could be a good fit for the Cavs. While he is a similar player to Cedi Osman, he could potentially become a power forward for this team over time. Kevin Love would be a great mentor for a young player looking to become a stretch 4. There would also be immediate small forward minutes available. This could be an ideal situation for Avdija, as just like the Bulls he will get minutes without being expected to play at a high level immediately. 

Atlanta Hawks

In my opinion Avdija is the best fit for the Hawks if they do not trade up for Anthony Edwards. The Hawks want multi positional players who can move the ball and make smart decisions. While Avdija is not yet the shooter the Hawks will be wanting, he brings both perimeter defense and passing. If the Hawks decide to move on from John Collins (which is quite possible if he is trying to get a max contract), they could have a future line up of Trae Young, Cam Reddish, DeAndre Hunter, Deni Avdija and Clint Capela. By running three wing switch defenders in the line up the Hawks would be very hard to score on the perimeter against. And on top of that they have Capela as a high calibre rim protector. 

Detroit Pistons

The Detroit Pistons need to draft the best player available regardless of fit. If they are convinced that Avdija offers the most upside out of the available players they should draft him. If Avdija falls this far to them I would not be surprised to see Avdija drafted by Detroit. 

All Avdija is missing is a jump shot. He is able to play both small ball and in more traditional lineups. Due to Avdija’s adaptive playing style, the Pistons can decide on their future playing style next draft.

New York Knicks

I believe that the Knicks are a bad fit for Avdija. If he falls this far, it is possible they draft him as the best player available. Ultimately he would not fit next to RJ Barret as both players currently struggle with their shooting. This lack of floor spacing would be bad for both players. 

Washington Wizards

Again it is unlikely for Avdija to fall this far, but Washington would be an ideal fit for Deni Avdija. Both Thomas Bryant and Moritz Wagner are big men who can shoot. Deni could easily play alongside them. He would also help add to the defensive intensity of the team. 


Deni Avdija has a very well rounded game. He plays defense with high intensity and effort. He is a capable and willing passer who makes winning decisions instead of forcing shots. Avdija also offers solid rebounding for a wing which paves the way for him to become a power forward.

Avdija so far appears to be lacking a consistent jump shot and accurate free throw. This will hold him back from becoming a special player for the time being. Whether Avdija develops a 3pt shot or not, he will be a solid NBA role player. But if he is able to take that step forward he can become a high calibre NBA, maybe even an all star. 

Photo by Emmano Gallo