Everything You Need To Know About Deni Avdija

Deni Avdija is one of the most versatile and promising prospects in this draft. His combination of size, basketball IQ, and playmaking ability should make him an early lottery pick.

Deni Avdija’s combination of size, playmaking, and basketball IQ makes him one of the top prospects in the 2020 NBA Draft.

While his general box score numbers don’t leap off the page, Avdija has improved his game and added something new every year. He is competitive as hell and is happy to do whatever the team needs him to do to win.

One of the most promising traits of Avdija’s game is his basketball IQ. He isn’t a bad athlete by any means, but because of his mind, he can continue to grow his game in ways the traditional, raw athlete is unable to do.

As the NBA game continues to spread farther out, teams need playmakers at every position. Avdija has great passing vision and is comfortable examining the floor to find the open teammate.

Even though Avdija is a great passer, he will be more of a secondary playmaker at the start of his career. The only reason for this is because of his inconsistency running the pick-and-roll. Avdija is capable in these situations, but he only started running the pick-and-roll in the last year or so. As he gets more experience, though, he will only become more effective.

Avdija’s playmaking is on display when he is running in transition or the natural flow of the offense. His ability to find runners in transition is key because of his size and rebounding ability. This will allow his team to run quickly and more frequently.

With his size, Avdija consistently finds himself in mismatches. He can take smaller defenders into the post or beat bigger opponents off the dribble. A common theme in these situations is the defense having to send a second defender. This is when Avdija makes them pay.

In the below clip, Avdija shows off not only his vision, but also his passing accuracy.

As Avdija brings the ball across half-court, he identifies his cutting teammate. Avdija notices the defender in the paint has his back turned, and the wing defender is just jogging back. This creates a passing lane for Avdija to fire a one-handed bounce pass at a perfect height to lead his teammate in for a dunk.

Here we see another example of how Avdija can initiate the offense and set up his teammate for an easy basket.

Avdija does a great job of using his size to get into the defender and turn him. Once Avdija spins, he has an open lane to the rim. This forces the defender at the top of the key to rotate and cut off Avdija’s drive. Avdija continues his dribble long enough to engage the rotating defender, but not too long where his initial defender has time to switch.

Once Avdija engages both defenders, he makes a perfect pass for the open three.

As a rookie, Avdija won’t be the primary playmaker that much because his ball-handling still needs some improvement. Many of his playmaking opportunities, if not in transition, will come in the natural flow of the offense where he is running off screens or posting up.

Below, Avdija shows how accurate of a passer he is on the move. Earlier in this game, Avdija had knocked down a couple of jumpers. This has forced Avdija’s defender to chase him over the screen instead of sliding under. By doing this, it creates an open lane for Avdija to attack while keeping his defender on his back.

As Avdija attacks the lane, the screener’s defender is forced to rotate. The second the rotating defender commits and turns his hips, Avdija delivers a one-handed live-dribble pass to the screener for an easy lay-up.

Avdija’s playmaking is a big reason why he’s considered one of the top prospects in this draft, but his shooting is one of his biggest question marks.

The foundation of Avdija’s shot is solid, but he struggles to consistently piece everything together. Avdija is inconsistent at staying in his shot (falls back as he elevates), taking choppy steps instead of hopping into his shot, and having his hands and feet ready to shoot.

Despite these issues, Avdija elevates nicely and has a high, fluid release. When he is putting everything together, his form is pretty; he looks like a natural shooter. As he continues to get more coaching, these issues should get ironed out. I’m not sure that Avdija will ever be considered a sharpshooter, but he will be reliable enough where teams will have to respect him.

The results of Avdija’s shot can fluctuate, but he is still a quality scorer. He gets to the rim consistently by using his body to create space, and he is very comfortable in the post where he has a bevy of moves. Even if Avdija is having an off shooting night, he will be able to get his points in other ways.

Another slight on Avdija’s game has been his defensive inconsistencies.

That’s about as fooled on defense as you can get, but this year Avdija has made massive strides on the defensive end. He will be the first to admit he didn’t care about defense in the past, but a year or two ago was the first time he had a coach who cared about and taught defense.

Avdija still has some defensive lapses, but the improvements he’s made are impressive and encouraging for what type of defender he can be. With his size, footwork, and athleticism, Avdija can guard nearly any position on the floor, which we can see in the below clips.

In those clips, Avdija guarded nearly every position on the floor. What stood out the most was his footwork. He does a great job of sliding his feet to keep his body between the rim and his opponent without fouling. By sliding his feet, Avdija ensures that he keeps his balance and can react to his opponent's moves quickly. He swallowed up drives by wings and guards while forcing turnovers or tough shots. He even showed that he can hold his own on post-ups against bigger defenders.

Avdija doesn’t have the strength yet to be a primary post defender, but he has proven to be a great weak-side rim protector because of his timing and basketball IQ.

In the below clip, Avdija shows off his defensive reactions and shot-blocking ability. Avdija is running back in transition and looking to stop the ball. As the ball handler passes to the cutter, watch how quickly Avdija turns his hips and moves his feet. This allows him to cut off the drive, beat the defender to the apex of the jump, and block the shot.

Blocked shots are the sexy plays that show up in the box score, but weak side rotations that disrupt shots are just as important. This season, Avdija has developed into a great weakside rim protector. A good amount of his rotations end up as blocks but plays like we see below are more common and just as effective.

Plays like the below clip happen a dozen times a game and often, the defense completely misses the weakside rotation. From the start, Avdija is doing a nice job of shading towards the lane, in case he needs to rotate, while not completely leaving his man open. Once the screener roles, though, Avdija commits to the rotation.

Avdija beats the opponent to the opposite block outside the restricted area which is key. From there, he does a great job of staying vertical and not fouling. By staying vertical and beating the opponent to the spot outside the restricted area, Avdija has forced the opponent into a tough shot that he misses.

Avdija isn’t the best defender in this class and still has plenty of improving to do, but critiques that tear apart his defense are just off base.

Going forward, Deni Avdija has one of the highest ceilings in this draft. His basketball IQ and playmaking are the big standouts, but his scoring ability and much-improved defense must be noted. His game has shades of Nikola Jokic and Manu Ginobili as he sees the floor well, knows what to do, and desperately wants to win every game.

At the start of his career, Deni Avdija will likely be used as an off-ball facilitator. This isn’t the sexiest role on the team, but if he’s blessed with a clever coaching staff, they will find better ways to ingrain him into the offense as he continues to develop. The peak of Avdija’s game will be him as a primary ball-handler who is a threat to create or score every possession. He has the body, the brain, and the foundation to reach that peak as long as his organization doesn’t stifle his growth.

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