Deni Avdija

Draft Notes: Avdija, Paul, Maxey, Bey

Deni Avdija is one of the few draft prospects who has played competitive basketball in the past seven months, writes Krysten Peek of Yahoo Sports. The Israeli forward, who is considered a top five pick by some draft analysts, elected to play for Maccabi in the Winner League tournament in June and was named league MVP.

“There was a choice to either rest before the draft and just work out or play,” Avdija said. “Me, I’m competitive. I couldn’t leave my teammates and my coaches so I thought I needed to fight, and I wanted to win this championship to go off in a good and positive way.”

Avdija is already a fan favorite in Israel. He was only 16 when he signed with Maccabi in 2017, becoming the youngest player in team history. He was also part of the Israel junior national team that won the European Championships in 2018 and 2019. Avdija has been in Atlanta since August, working out with fellow European prospect Theo Maledon and waiting for his shot at the NBA.

“I hope to show teams how big of a competitor I am. How I love to win and how I’ll always challenge myself,” Avdija said. “I just want to show them it’s just me being me, playing my game, practicing as hard as I can, shooting the ball, rebounding, playmaking, things I usually do well and we’ll see how it goes.”

There’s more draft news to pass along:

  • Agent Rich Paul is responding to complaints about a televised Pro Day held this week for Anthony Edwards and Tyrese Maxey, according to Jack Baer of Yahoo Sports. Some rival agents claimed the event gave too much exposure to Paul’s clients. “When black it’s discredited, it’s critiqued, narratives are driven,” Paul wrote on Instagram. “It’s a shock when the black athlete isn’t making the black agent work for free, or feel as if it’s a privilege to represent them but instead respect their practice and expertise. Why?”
  • Maxey showed off a revamped jump shot during his 20-minute session, observes Marc Berman of The New York Post. Using a higher release point than he did at Kentucky, Maxey drilled five straight three-pointers in his workout. “I was able to show I can knock down my outside shot consistently — catch-and-shoot, off the move — and I was able to show my conditioning because nobody has seen me because of COVID-19,’’ he said.
  • Colorado’s Tyler Bey set an NBA combine record for forwards with a 43.5-inch max vertical leap, tweets Jonathan Wasserman of Bleacher Report. Bey is No. 28 on ESPN’s list of the top 100 draft prospects.

Central Notes: Pistons Draft, Bucks Moves, Bulls Draft

The Pistons can be reasonably certain about five prospects who won’t drop to them at the No. 7 overall pick, according to Keith Langlois of Pistons.com. From the way the draft is shaping up, Anthony Edwards, James Wiseman, LaMelo Ball, Obi Toppin and Deni Avdija — in no particular order — will be off the board. The player that Detroit drafts could be predicated by which player goes at the No. 6 pick, which the Hawks currently own. Although the Pistons are open to trading up or down, those deals are difficult to pull off for teams picking in the middle of the lottery, Langlois adds.

We have more from the Central Division:

  • While Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s decision on whether to sign an extension looms over the Bucks franchise, Milwaukee has several other issues to ponder this offseason and it seeks ways to advance deeper into the playoffs. The Athletic’s Danny Leroux takes a look at the team’s cap and roster situation and concludes that the front office will be seeking depth players and young talent in free agency and potential trades. Retaining Wesley Matthews, who is likely to decline his $2.69MM option, is another priority, Leroux adds.
  • Bulls executive vice president of basketball operations Artūras Karnišovas should try his best to trade down in the draft, K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago opines. With Edwards, Wiseman and Ball likely to go in the first three picks, the Bulls are in a pivotal position at No. 4. If another team covets a player at that spot, they could pick up another asset or two in a trade. With the likelihood of having 12 guaranteed contracts along with decisions to make on three restricted free agents, Chicago also has roster issues to consider, Johnson adds.
  • Toppin appears to be high on the Cavaliers’ draft board. Get the details here.

Warriors Work Out Deni Avdija

Warriors head coach Steve Kerr and other members of the organization traveled to Atlanta to work out Israeli draft prospect Deni Avdija on Thursday morning, sources tell Ethan Strauss of The Athletic.

According to Strauss, Avdija performed well in the workouts and Warriors officials were “blown away” after meeting with him. The club was impressed with the 19-year-old’s work ethic, Strauss adds.

[RELATED: Omri Casspi thinks Avdija would be good fit for Warriors]

For the past few months, NBA teams haven’t been permitted to work out prospects as part of this year’s pre-draft process, but the league recently loosened restrictions on those in-person meetings. Clubs are now allowed to conduct 10 in-person workouts with draft-eligible players by November 16.

Not every team has been enthusiastic about taking advantage of the opportunity to meet with prospects in person, as we detailed last weekend. However, the expectation has been that teams with high lottery picks will be active in lining up meetings with top prospects, so it makes sense that the Warriors – who own the No. 2 selection – would be one of the clubs to take advantage.

As Strauss notes, the Warriors’ workout with Avdija doesn’t necessarily mean that the team is zeroing in on the former Maccabi Tel Aviv star. However, the fact that members of the organization were willing to travel to Atlanta to get a closer look at the young forward is at least a signal that Golden State hasn’t committed to the idea of trading out of the No. 2 spot in a win-now deal.

Warriors Notes: Trade Exception, No. 2 Pick, Avdija

The Warriors‘ $17.2MM trade exception is the largest in the NBA and should be a valuable resource as the team looks to upgrade its roster this offseason. However, given the massive luxury tax implications and the NBA’s uncertain financial landscape, sources increasingly insist that Golden State may only use that exception for a “special opportunity,” according to Anthony Slater of The Athletic.

As Slater explains, there will likely be a number of teams around the NBA looking to shed salary this offseason, so the Warriors probably wouldn’t have trouble acquiring an “overpriced veteran” using the exception — Slater cites forward Rudy Gay as one example. But adding Gay’s $14MM salary to a team salary that’s already over the tax line would cost exponentially more than just $14MM, and Slater questions whether that would qualify as a “special opportunity.”

There are several ways the Warriors could use their trade exception. As we detailed earlier this month, acquiring a single player who earns close to $17MM is the simplest path for the team to take, but it might not be the most prudent one. Using the exception to land a quality player whose salary falls significantly below that $17MM mark may qualify as a special opportunity. There are also ways the club might be able to essentially roll over the exception by simultaneously sending out salary and taking it on, as we explained in our previous article.

As the Warriors continue to consider potential uses for that exception, let’s round up a few more notes on the club…

  • Jeremy Woo of SI.com explores several paths the Warriors could go with the second overall pick, proposing a series of hypothetical trades that would see the team trade down from No. 2 or out of the draft entirely. If the club doesn’t find a deal it likes, drafting and developing a player with that selection isn’t a bad fallback option, Woo notes.
  • Ex-Warriors forward Omri Casspi believes that his former Maccabi Tel Aviv teammate and fellow Israeli Deni Avdija would be a great fit for Golden State. “The system with the Warriors, the way they play, everyone reads the game, everyone can make plays, flow offense,” Casspi said on the Runnin’ Plays podcast (link via Grant Liffman of NBC Sports Bay Area). “He can really help. It especially fits his style of basketball, that’s his game. He can create plays.”
  • Taking into account the role that Shaun Livingston played for the Warriors’ title teams, Monte Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area identifies five potential offseason point guard targets who might be able to play a similar role for next year’s team, including D.J. Augustin and Jeff Teague.

And-Ones: Option Decisions, Avdija, Draft, Onuaku

With the NBA season over and 2020’s free agent period approaching (eventually), John Hollinger of The Athletic takes a look at all 43 team and player option decisions that must be made this fall, evaluating which options are likely to be exercised and which will be turned down.

While Anthony Davis and Jerami Grant are viewed as the only locks to decline their respective player options this offseason, Hollinger identifies seven more players who he thinks will opt for free agency: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Rajon Rondo, JaVale McGee, Wesley Matthews, Austin Rivers, Willie Cauley-Stein, and James Ennis.

With the exception of Caldwell-Pope, McGee, and Cauley-Stein – who is technically earning slightly above the minimum – those players are all on minimum-salary deals, so it won’t be a surprise if they explore the open market, even if they have to settle for another minimum contract. However, KCP’s case should be interesting — his $8.49MM option for 2020/21 is close to mid-level territory, but he could still probably do better after an impressive showing in the NBA Finals.

Here are more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • ESPN’s Brian Windhorst and Bobby Marks take a look at next steps for the NBA, including what next season’s schedule might look like and when roster moves might resume. While there’s currently a freeze on transactions, team executives confirmed to ESPN that the moratorium will be lifted and trades will be permitted before the draft on November 18.
  • Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer and Jeremy Woo of SI.com have each published updated versions of their mock drafts for 2020. Both draft experts have Anthony Edwards going No. 1, but O’Connor has a surprise pick at No. 2, penciling in Deni Avdija. League executives expect Avdija to “enter the mainstream conversation as a top-three pick” in the coming weeks, according to O’Connor.
  • Former NBA big man Chinanu Onuaku has reached an agreement to sign with Croatian team KK Zadar, a source tells Emiliano Carchia of Sportando. Onuaku was the 37th overall pick in the 2016 draft, but didn’t see much action in two seasons with Houston, appearing in just six total games before being traded and waived.

Central Notes: Harris, Crowder, Pistons, Avdija, Bulls

Forwards Joe Harris and Jae Crowder are free agents the Bucks might pursue with their mid-level exception, Eric Nehm of The Athletic speculates. Harris would provide another offensive threat, while Crowder is a defensive stalwart. If the Bucks pursue cheaper options, Josh JacksonWesley Iwundu, Gary Clark and Glenn Robinson are considerations with their biannual exception or minimum deals.

We have more from around the Central Division:

  • The Pistons are putting a premium on conditioning and weight training but they’ll look to balance that with offensive improvements, according to Keith Langlois of Pistons.com. Coach Dwane Casey looks at the Heat as a model of a team with toughness and shooting. “You’ve got to have a good mixture of hard-hat guys and shooters – guys who can put the ball in the hole,” he said. “The game is leaning that way. We all have to evolve from that standpoint.”
  • Israeli forward Deni Avdija could be an ideal complement to last year’s first-round pick, Sekou Doumbouya, Langlois writes in a separate story. Avdija has similar size and positional flexibility as Doumbouya, which could allow the Pistons to exploit mismatches. His offensive skills would add another playmaker at Casey’s disposal. However, Avdija would have to slide to the Pistons’ pick at No. 7 or they’d have to trade up to land him.
  • The Bulls won’t be making major roster changes this offseason but they could pursue a wing in free agency, Rob Schaefer of NBC Sports Chicago opines. They would be wise not to hand out a long-term contract, as future cap space should be preserved until they show real improvement, Schaefer adds.

Central Notes: Maker, Cavs, Windler, Bucks

Pistons big man Thon Maker has been working to expand his game, including his long-range shooting stroke, per Keith Langlois of Pistons.com. Detroit can extend Maker a $4.64MM qualifying offer to keep him on the team heading into his fifth season in 2020/21. Langlois anticipates that the Pistons will opt not to do so, however, making Maker an unrestricted free agent — and possibly available for less than his qualifying offer on the open market.

“I’ve always loved Detroit since the first day I got here,” Maker said of his tenure with the Pistons. “I just focus on the basketball and that’s between my agent and the team. My focus is to come here in this [mini-camp] bubble and just play.”

There’s more out of the Central Division:

  • The Cavaliers have several prospects they would prefer to interview during the ongoing NBA combine, writes Cleveland.com’s Chris Fedor. Virtual interviews commenced last week and wrap up on October 16. Medical exams by the nearest NBA physician and a series of on-court activities completed near the players’ homes are set to take place this month. Fedor reports that Cleveland appears to have a strong interest in talking to top draft candidates LaMelo Ball, Deni Avdija and Isaac Okoro.
  • Cavaliers rookie swingman Dylan Windler, who missed the entire 2019/20 season with a left leg stress fracture, is expected by the team to have a significant on-court role for Cleveland in 2020/21, according to Fedor elsewhere in the same piece. Sources tell Cleveland.com that the 2019 first-rounder is the Cavs’ “most asked-about” player in trade talks, though the team has no interest in moving him.
  • After a disappointing second-round elimination at the hands of the Heat, the Bucks face an interesting offseason, according to The Athletic’s Eric Nehm. Assuming no major cost-cutting trades are made, the team is anticipated to be over the salary cap next season.  GM Jon Horst has a few options he could exercise to creatively make changes around the periphery of the team, including not guaranteeing forward Ersan Ilyasova‘s $7MM salary.

Draft Notes: Okoro, Avdija, Ball, Wiseman

Auburn’s Isaac Okoro believes he deserves consideration for the top pick in next month’s draft, writes Adam Zagoria for Forbes. Most of the discussion has focused on Anthony Edwards, LaMelo Ball and James Wiseman, but Okoro makes a case for the Timberwolves to take him first overall.

“Yes, I feel I should be the No. 1 pick because I go out every game and I compete and I give 100% effort,” Okoro said. “I’m just willing to do whatever any coaches want me to do, so I feel like me bringing a winning culture I should be the No. 1 pick.”

The 6’6″ forward had an outstanding season with the Tigers, averaging 12.9 points and 4.4 rebounds per game and earning spots on the SEC’s All-Defense and All-Freshman teams, along with second team all-conference honors. He believes he would be a good complement to the talent already in place in Minnesota.

“I could see myself fitting in there, playing with D’Angelo Russell, Karl-Anthony Towns,” Okoro said. “I feel like I could come in there and play my role, do whatever the coach needs me to do in the game and just win.”

There’s more draft news to pass along:

  • Deni Avdija is likely to become the highest draft pick ever from Israel, notes Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. The 19-year-old has spent the past two seasons in the EuroLeague, and although he hasn’t put up huge numbers, he has impressed scouts enough to be considered a top-10 selection. “It’s exciting. Any time you can make history or any kind of good thing to represent the Jewish community and the state of Israel, that’s an honor for me,” Avdija said.
  • Ball is taking an unusual path to the NBA, but he tells Jace Frederick of the St. Paul Pioneer Press that his experiences, which included leaving high school early and playing in Lithuania and Australia, helped prepare him for the challenges ahead. “When I made that first move to Lithuania, that’s really when I grew up and stuff,” Ball said. “I realized what was going on. I wouldn’t change my journey, because it’s one of one. I like it.”
  • Wiseman has moved into the second slot in the latest mock draft from Sam Vecenie of The Athletic. The writer sees Wiseman developing into a Defensive Player of the Year candidate, and players and trainers who have watched him work out say he looks “phenomenal.” Vecenie still has Ball as his No. 1 pick, with Edwards, Obi Toppin and Onyeka Okongwu rounding out the top five.

Eastern Notes: Kennard, Maker, Patton, Avdija, Garland

Rookie scale extension candidate Luke Kennard made a strong impression on Pistons coach Dwane Casey during the team’s mini-camp, James Edwards of The Athletic tweets. Kennard missed most of the season due to knee injuries but looked completely healthy during the workouts.

“Luke Kennard came in here in great shape. He accomplished and we accomplished with what we wanted to do with him. No tendinitis,” Casey said. “I think he’s in the best shape since I’ve coached him. He played with intelligence and confidence.”

We have more from around the Eastern Conference:

  • Neither Thon Maker nor Justin Patton stood out during that same Detroit mini-camp, Edwards reports. Entering the workouts, it was considered a battle for a frontcourt roster spot. However, it’s unlikely the Pistons will extend Maker a $4.64MM qualifying offer. Thus, Maker would become an unrestricted free agent. Patton, who has a non-guaranteed salary of $1.76MM next season, underwent pinkie surgery two days after group activities began.
  • Israeli forward Deni Avdija could be the Knicks’ target if he slides to the No. 8 pick, according to Marc Berman of the New York Post. The Knicks plan to interview Avdija, who is praised for his versatility and outside shooting touch. He’s currently ranked No. 4 among the best available prospects by ESPN.
  • Darius Garland stood out in the Cavaliers mini-camp, Chris Fedor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports. Garland had the look of a “very dynamic point guard,” according to one of the team’s assistant coaches. Garland averaged 12.3 PPG, 3.9 APG and 2.6 TPG in 59 starts as a rookie after being selected with No. 5 overall pick.

LaMelo Ball Headlines List Of Draft Combine Participants

Potential No. 1 overall pick LaMelo Ball will be among the prospects participating in the revamped virtual draft combine this week, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic. Ball is scheduled to take part in team interviews and a media session this week, but may not participate in any other portion, Jeremy Woo of SI.com cautions (via Twitter).

While Ball’s participation might be limited, many of this year’s other top prospects aren’t taking part in the event at all. As Woo points out (via Twitter), Anthony Edwards, James Wiseman, Obi Toppin, Onyeka Okongwu, Cole Anthony, Aaron Nesmith, Devin Vassell, and Saddiq Bey are among the players who don’t appear on the list of participants sent out by the NBA.

The list of top prospects besides Ball who will be participating in the event includes Precious Achiuwa, Deni Avdija, Tyrese Haliburton, RJ Hampton, Killian Hayes, Theo Maledon, and Isaac Okoro, among others.

Here’s the full list of combine participants, via Charania:

  1. Precious Achiuwa, F, Memphis
  2. Ty-Shon Alexander, G, Creighton
  3. Deni Avdija, F, Maccabi Tel Aviv (Israel)
  4. Udoka Azubuike, C, Kansas
  5. LaMelo Ball, G, Illawarra Hawks (Australia)
  6. Desmond Bane, G, TCU
  7. Tyler Bey, F, Colorado
  8. Vernon Carey Jr., C, Duke
  9. Yoeli Childs, F, BYU
  10. Mamadi Diakite, F, Virginia
  11. Devon Dotson, G, Kansas
  12. Paul Eboua, F, VL Pesaro (Italy)
  13. CJ Elleby, F, Washington State
  14. Malachi Flynn, G, San Diego State
  15. Trent Forrest, G, Florida State
  16. Josh Green, G/F, Arizona
  17. Ashton Hagans, G, Kentucky
  18. Tyrese Haliburton, G, Iowa State
  19. Josh Hall, F, Moravian Prep
  20. RJ Hampton, G, New Zealand Breakers (New Zealand)
  21. Jalen Harris, G, Nevada
  22. Killian Hayes, G, Ratiopharm Ulm (Germany)
  23. Markus Howard, G, Marquette
  24. Elijah Hughes, G/F, Syracuse
  25. Isaiah Joe, G, Arkansas
  26. Mason Jones, G, Arkansas
  27. Tre Jones, G, Duke
  28. Nathan Knight, F/C, William & Mary
  29. Kira Lewis, G, Alabama
  30. Theo Maledon, G, ASVEL (France)
  31. Karim Mane, G, Vanier College (Canada)
  32. Nico Mannion, G, Arizona
  33. Naji Marshall, F, Xavier
  34. Kenyon Martin Jr., F, IMG Academy
  35. Skylar Mays, G, LSU
  36. Jaden McDaniels, F, Washington
  37. Sam Merrill, G, Utah State
  38. Zeke Nnaji, F, Arizona
  39. Jordan Nwora, F, Louisville
  40. Isaac Okoro, F, Auburn
  41. Daniel Oturu, C, Minnesota
  42. Reggie Perry, F, Mississippi State
  43. Myles Powell, G, Seton Hall
  44. Payton Pritchard, G, Oregon
  45. Immanuel Quickley, G, Kentucky
  46. Jahmi’us Ramsey, G, Texas Tech
  47. Paul Reed, F, DePaul
  48. Nick Richards, F/C, Kentucky
  49. Grant Riller, G, Charleston
  50. Jay Scrubb, G, John A. Logan College
  51. Jalen Smith, F, Maryland
  52. Cassius Stanley, G, Duke
  53. Lamar Stevens, F, Penn State
  54. Isaiah Stewart, F/C, Washington
  55. Tyrell Terry, G, Stanford
  56. Xavier Tillman, F/C, Michigan State
  57. Kaleb Wesson, F/C, Ohio State
  58. Kahlil Whitney, F, Kentucky
  59. Cassius Winston, G, Michigan State
  60. Robert Woodard II, F, Mississippi State

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the NBA is unable to hold its typical in-person draft combine this year, but the league has put together an alternative combine that will feature interviews through videoconferencing as well as the making of “pro day” videos, which will include strength and agility testing, anthropometric measurements, and shooting drills. Participants will also undergo medical testing and exams.

For more details on this year’s combine, be sure to check out our full story on the changes.