The 10th place Spurs are 23-31 as we prepare for the first game following a much-needed ten-day All-Star break. Although San Antonio is within range of fighting for the eighth and final Western Conference playoff spot, they haven’t shown us enough to believe in their ability to achieve a 23rd consecutive postseason berth.
Poor defense, inconsistent three-point shooting, and subpar performances at the forward positions have plagued the good guys, but PATFO will have a chance to address those needs in the 2020 NBA Draft. The Silver and Black are famous for developing international talent, and a brilliant young overseas prospect could be available if they fall deep into the lottery.
Deni Avdija | Maccabi Tel Aviv | Forward |
With the San Antonio Spurs on pace for a lottery pick, here’s a potential prospect.— Noah Magaro-George (@N_Magaro) February 8, 2020
Deni Avdija is a gifted passer with the ability to create his own shot and play off the ball.
The 19-year-old small forward is also a versatile defender and surprisingly effective rim protector. pic.twitter.com/DTBN66R0ou
Weight: 215 lbs
Stats (41 GP)
Per Game: 7.8 PPG/4.2 RPG/1.7 APG/0.4 SPG/0.7 BPG
Per 36: 14.4 PPG/7.8 RPG/3.2 APG/0.8 SPG/1.2 BPG
Shooting Splits: .535 FG%/.387 3P%/.522 FT%
The Israeli point-forward is one of the most highly-touted prospects in the 2020 Draft Class, and when you take a look at the game-tape, there’s no doubt his multifaceted skillset warrants a high lottery selection. Though some view Deni Avidija as more of a jack of all trades and master of none, at just 19-years-old, it’s easy to envision a bright future for him in the league if he can continue to develop both physically and mentally.
In regards to scoring, Avdija is an efficient post-up player in mismatches, reliable finisher around the rim, intelligent cutter, and a good-not-great spot-up three-point shooter. His ballhandling is advanced for a player of his size, age, and position, though he clearly favors his right hand as a driver at this stage in his career.
While he can create off the dribble, Deni is most effective when avoiding combination moves in favor of a straight-line drive where he can take advantage of his above-average speed. And though he can act as a primary scorer in certain situations, Avdija has routinely operated as a third option behind Scott Wilbekin and Tyler Dorsey, and that role will likely carry over to the NBA.
One area where the forward stands out in comparison to his peers is his court vision and basketball IQ. Deni is a creative passer who loves to push the rock in transition, and despite a relatively small sample size, has shown the ability to make some nice reads off drive-and-kicks and in the pick-and-roll.
Avdija does a great job of limiting turnovers and playing within himself on the offensive end. He rarely forces the issue, and his largest flaws are his surprisingly low free-throw rate and percentage, and his inefficiency finishing through contact. His lack of vertical explosiveness may also give him trouble at the next level, but his strong frame and body control should help him adjust to the world-class athletes in the association.
The Spurs have long prided themselves on their excellent defensive execution, and Deni Avdija projects as a decent contributor on that side of the court. He is a smart team defender and verbal communicator who regularly makes the right rotation to protect the paint or uncovered perimeter shooter.
His length and athleticism will probably limit his ability to become an elite rim protector or rebounder in the NBA. However, his excellent timing and practice of verticality could allow him the same kind of shot-blocking success that we have seen from our very own Derrick White.
His lateral mobility, balance, and footwork aren’t suited for isolation defense, and Deni doesn’t possess the speed to keep up with quicker guards or the muscle to battle down low with traditional bigs. He also gets stuck on screens and can overcommit on closeouts from time to time, but his generally high motor on the defensive end makes up for some of his physical shortcomings.
Overall, Avdija is a sound defender who won’t be a liability that teams actively scheme to hide. Though he probably won’t win any All-Defense honors, with some refining of his fundamentals, Deni could grow into a plus-defender in the mold of Joe Ingles.
Player Comparison: Hedo Turkoglu
Because of their similar frames and overseas origins, people will naturally liken Deni Avdija to Luka Doncic, but I wouldn’t waste time with such lofty expectations. Instead, a better comparison for the Israeli forward is former San Antonio Spur Hedo Turkoglu.
Though I realize the Turkish product didn’t exactly have the best one-year stint in Alamo City, Turkoglu went on to have an admirable 15-year NBA career. A career that saw him become a borderline All-Star in Orlando for a Magic team that made it to the 2009 Finals.
At his peak, Hedo was an incredible distributor, formidable long-distance shooter, and potent scorer. If Deni can continue to hone his abilities when he comes into the league, we might see a more athletic defensively superior version of the 2008 Most Improved Player of the Year.
Avdija is slated to be swept off the board early in the lottery, and San Antonio would need a second-half implosion or draft-day deal to acquire his services. Coach Popovich met the Israeli wunderkind at Basketball Without Borders Europe in 2018, and the Spurs sent scouts to watch Deni play in December, so hope remains for a possible connection this offseason.