Israeli basketball phenom Deni Avdija has declared for the 2020 NBA draft. He declared for the draft via "Get Up ESPN" and through a statement with Maccabi Fox Tel Aviv.

About Deni Avdija

Deni Avdija was born on January 3, 2001, in Beit Zera, Israel, a kibbutz town in Israel. His father is a former professional basketball player who played for Israeli based teams during his career. His mother is a former track and field athlete and also played basketball. While his father is a Muslim, his mother is Jewish which means that Deni is Jewish. He also has Serbian descent and holds Serbian citizenship from his father's side.

As in Israel, all citizens are required to enter conscription into the military once they turn 18. Since Avdija is a basketball prodigy, he was granted the status of an exceptional athlete which exempts him from military service. Although, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he enlisted in the army where he will begin army training on August 5 but will complete the rest of his service abroad due to his exceptional athlete status. On joining the army, he said: "I am happy and proud to join the IDF just like every other citizen of my age".

He is a power forward who stands at 6'9 and weighs 219 pounds.

Amateur Basketball

Deni didn't take up basketball until he entered fourth-grade as he played soccer beforehand.

He started playing basketball with the Bnei Herzliya youth team until he switched over to the youth team of Maccabi Tel Aviv where he won three consecutive championships from 2017-2019.

In January of 2019, he played with the Maccabi Tel Aviv youth team in the Addidas Next Generation Tournament where he was selected to the all-tournament team with averages of 24.3 points, 11 rebounds, six assists, and 3.8 steals.

In a second tournament, he averaged 24.7 points, 12 rebounds and 6.7 assists which again got him named to the all-tournament team.

In 2018, he participated in the Basketball Without Borders Europe camp in Belgrade where he was named camp MVP. During an all-star weekend in Charlotte, in 2019, he was named the Basketball Without Borders Global MVP.

Pro basketball and Israeli National Team

In 2017, Maccabi Tel Aviv signed Avdija to a professional contract giving him a six-year deal. At the age of 16, he became the youngest player to player in the Israeli Basketball Premier League.

In his first national tournament, the FIBA U16 European Championship in 2017, he had the option to play for Serbia but declined and played for Israel. He averaged 15.3 points, 12.6 rebounds and 5.3 assists which he was the tournament leader in averages for rebounds and assists.

He competed for Israel in the FIBA U20 European Championship in July 2018 at the age of 17. He averaged 12.7 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 1.1 assists and was named to the all-tournament team.

Israel won gold beating Croatia 80-66. In the same month, he also played for the U18 team where he averaged 17.3 points, 7.4 rebounds, and three assists.

A year later, he played in the U20 tournament again which was played in Tel Aviv. He averaged 18.4 points, 8.3 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 2.4 blocks and 2.1 steals which got him named to the all-tournament team and won MVP of the tournament. Israel won gold again beating Spain 92-84.

In the 2019-20 season in the Israeli Basketball Premier League. Avdija averaged 12.3 points, 5.9 rebounds and 2.4 assists while averaging 26.6 minutes on the court. He had a field goal percentage of 55.5 percent, and a three-point percentage of 37.5 percent.

Draft notes

Avdija has been on the radar of NBA scouts and front office executives for a while. Cavaliers GM Koby Altman even went as far as going to Israel to watch Avdija play.

He has been mentioned as a top pick in mock drafts since last year. In their most updated mock draft, Bleacher Report has Avdija being drafted sixth overall by the Knicks whereas the website Sportsnaut has Avdija being selected second overall by the Hawks.

Avdija has been compared to good players like Danilo Gallinari all the way to an upper-echelon player in Luka Doncic. Playing professionally overseas will help him adjust to the NBA a lot smoother than college players will and in fact, he should have the easiest transition into the NBA even with guys like LaMelo Ball and R.J.

Hampton in this years draft class who played overseas in Australia as the Euroleague and Israeli Basketball Premier League is a lot more competitive than IBL, the professional basketball league in Australia.

Only three Israelis have ever been drafted by an NBA team which Lior Eliyahu was drafted by the Magic with pick 44 in the 2006 draft while nine picks later, Yotam Halperin was drafted by the Seattle Supersonics with pick 53. Neither of them ever appeared in an NBA game. In 2009, Omri Casspi was taken with pick 23 by the Kings and went on to spend 10 years in the NBA. Gal Mekel is an Israeli that played in the NBA who went undrafted and appeared in 35 games in the NBA with the majority of those games (31) coming with the Mavericks.

Avdija is expected to be a lot better than any of these guys have as he is considered the top prospect to ever come from Israel.

With Maccabi Tel Aviv this year, Avdija played with former NBA players in Omri Casspi, Quincy Acy, Aaron Jackson, Tyler Dorsey, Nate Wolters and former NBA all-star and Rookie of the Year Amar'e Stoudemire. With Avdija being surrounded by all these guys, he was sure to get a lot of advice and tips on multiple aspects of basketball and NBA life.

Strengths and weaknesses

Avdija has been regarded for his strong basketball IQ which has allowed him to know and understand the game of basketball beyond his years. He also has a strong knowledge of where to be on the court and how to play off the ball, when he doesn't have the ball in his hands.

Another strength of Avdija is his technique as he has good shooting form and a solid rhythm. While it can't be shown on a scoresheet, Avdija is a true leader on the court and is a strong communicator. This a quality strength in a player and a character trait that teams look for in a player.

One thing he needs to work on is his athleticism in order to keep up with everyone and so he can stay on the court for a long time. Another thing he lacks is explosiveness as at times, he trots his way to the net instead of using his body to get through opposing defenders. One thing that can help him with this is gaining weight to his 6'9/219-pound frame. He also needs to work on his free throw shooting as with Maccabi Tel Aviv, he shot 50.9 percent from the free-throw line.

He may not make the biggest impact in year one but once he gets experience playing against the best of the best, he should be able to be a solid second or third option on a playoff NBA team.