Deni Avdija

Southeast Notes: Butler, Isaac, Hawks, Heat

Heat swingman Jimmy Butler, who continues to battle a right foot injury, has been ruled out for Saturday’s matchup with Phoenix, according to Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Twitter link). It will be the third consecutive game that Butler has missed.

Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra said on Thursday that Butler underwent both an MRI and an X-ray on the foot, which revealed no structural damage, per Barry Jackson and Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald. The hope for now is that rest is the best treatment for the All-Star wing.

“Jimmy had his final scan yesterday. And we understand what he’s dealing with,” agent Bernie Lee told The Herald. “And he’s working his butt off to get back on the floor ASAP and to be ready for the playoffs.”

The postseason isn’t scheduled to begin until August 17, so Butler has another 10 days to work his way back from the injury, which is mostly affecting his right ankle, according to Jackson and Chiang.

Here’s more from around the Southeast:

And-Ones: A. Gordon, OTAs, Draft, Avdija

With teams around the NBA preparing for the possibility that the 2020 offseason could be significantly truncated, one league executive tells Sean Deveney of Forbes that “there are already a lot of conversations” going on about possible offseason trades.

“If you want to get something done, you need to make sure you have the framework in place, that you know where you stand on everything because there just won’t be time to pull the trigger on these things,” the exec said.

With that in mind, Deveney spoke to a pair of executives about potential offseason trade candidates, including Magic forward Aaron Gordon. An Eastern Conference exec suggested that Gordon, who was shopped by Orlando before the February deadline, is “probably the most likely big name to be traded.”

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

  • As the NBA continues to work on a plan for allowing its bottom eight teams to conduct offseason workouts, Steve Popper of Newsday (Twitter links) hears that the league may approve of up to three weeks of OTAs for those clubs. In that scenario, there likely wouldn’t be a separate campus created for the bottom eight teams, as had been previously explored, Popper notes.
  • The NBA hopes to create a platform called “Combine HQ” that would help provide teams with profiles, stats, and interviews for the 105 draft-eligible prospects who received the most votes to be invited to the combine, a source tells Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated (Twitter link). It remains to be seen if such a tool would supplement an actual combine or be used in place of one.
  • Lottery prospect Deni Avdija has been named the Most Valuable Player of the Israeli Basketball League, making him the youngest player ever to win the award (Twitter link). The promising young forward currently ranks fifth overall on ESPN’s 2020 big board.

Cavaliers Notes: Garland, Sexton, Draft, Love

Statistically, Cavaliers rookie Darius Garland is the NBA’s worst player this season, but Chris Fedor of believes it’s too early to write him off as a draft bust. The No. 5 pick ranks last in Win Shares, Value Over Replacement Player and ESPN’s Real Plus-Minus and was outshined by several players who were drafted much later.

However, Fedor notes that first-year guards on poor teams usually need time to grow into their games. Teammate Collin Sexton faced similar criticism during his rookie season, but showed significant improvement this year. Garland just turned 20 in January, and his college career was limited to four full games because of a knee injury. He had another procedure on the knee during the offseason that forced him to miss Summer League, then had a foot injury in training camp.

“The world is not patient. You guys are not patient,” Tristan Thompson said. “Lose 10 games in a row you think the season is ending. Everyone is like that. Everyone wants instant results. But life is not like that, especially in a team sport. … It’s a learning curve for everyone and as long as you handle your job and do what you’ve got to do every day the rest will follow and we’ll see.”

There’s more from Cleveland:

  • The Cavs won’t have to make a long-term decision on the future of the Sexton-Garland backcourt until next summer, Fedor writes in a separate story. That’s when Sexton will be eligible for a rookie scale extension that would involve a significant financial investment. In the meantime, Fedor suggests Sexton, Garland and rookie Kevin Porter Jr. could all see starter’s minutes as Cleveland evaluates its young talent.
  • The front office remains split on this year’s best prospect, but LaMelo Ball, Anthony Edwards and James Wiseman are at the top of the Cavaliers’ draft board, Fedor adds in the same piece. If the team doesn’t finish high enough in the lottery to get one of them, Israeli forward Deni Avdija could be the pick because he fills a need. GM Koby Altman and scouting director Brandon Weems both traveled overseas to watch Avdija play, and head coach J.B. Bickerstaff has several former players who have been teammates with Avdija.
  • Jason Lloyd of The Athletic examines how Kevin Love emerged as the NBA’s leading spokesman on mental health issues. Love’s newest cause is calling attention to the lack of diverse therapists available to minorities.

Draft Notes: Avdija, Ball, Lawson, Collins

Deni Avdija, projected as a high lottery pick in this year’s draft, will rejoin his Maccabi Tel Aviv team when the Israeli basketball league resumes play Sunday, writes Jonathan Givony of ESPN.

“Before I go to the U.S., I have a job to finish here in Israel,” Avdija stated in an email. “As a competitor I am committed to my organization and teammates to help bring a championship to Tel Aviv. We were having such a great season, so winning the title, even with the delay and without live fans, will give me a sense that the hard work paid off.”

The 19-year-old forward was averaging averaging 12.3 points, 5.9 rebounds and 2.4 assists when the league suspended play in March and is rated fifth on Givony’s latest list of the top 100 draft prospects. The Israeli league won’t use a “bubble” concept during the remainder of its season. There will be home and away games without fans, and players have been told to remain at home and self-quarantine when they’re not at practices or games.

There’s more draft news to pass along:

  • LaMelo Ball ranks No. 1 on the new draft board compiled by Sam Vecenie of The Athletic. Georgia’s Anthony Edwards, Dayton’s Obi Toppin, Memphis’ James Wiseman and Iowa State’s Tyrese Haliburton round out the top five. Vecenie puts Haliburton on his list of players who have improved their draft stock during the interview process, which is topped by TCU’s Desmond Bane, who may have moved into the late first round.
  • South Carolina coach Frank Martin doesn’t believe guard A.J. Lawson should make an immediate decision about staying in the draft, according to John Whittle of 247 Sports. A report earlier this week indicated Lawson plans to return to school, but his father disputed that. “There’s no need to rush. He’s had probably six or seven interviews with NBA teams, which is what they’re all doing right now,” Martin said. “As long as NBA teams are offering interviews, I don’t see any reason why he should try to make a decision sooner than he has to. If no NBA team was asking to meet with him, I would think he’d make a decision by now.”
  • David Collins will take his name out of the draft and return to South Florida for his senior season, tweets Jeff Goodman of GoodmanHoops.
  • Zach Buckley of Bleacher Report ranks French guard Killian Hayes, Avdija and Haliburton as this year’s top sleeper prospects.

Warriors Targeting Anthony Edwards?

The Warriors are expected to select Georgia guard Anthony Edwards if they land the top pick in this year’s draft and decide to keep it, sources tell Connor Letourneau of The San Francisco Chronicle.

The 18-year-old shooting guard is ranked first on the list of the top 100 prospects compiled by ESPN’s Jonathan Givony. Edwards averaged 19.1 points and 5.2 rebounds during his lone season with the Bulldogs.

Golden State can’t finalize any plans until after the lottery, which has been moved to August 25. The Warriors, Cavaliers and Timberwolves will each have a 14% chance at the No. 1 selection in the draft, which has been pushed back to October 15.

Letourneau states that if the Warriors slip to anywhere between the second and fifth picks, they will turn their attention to Iowa State point guard Tyrese Haliburton, Auburn forward Isaac Okoro, Israeli forward Deni Avdija and a few other players.

Another possibility, Letourneau notes, is packaging the pick and using a $17.2MM traded player exception to acquire a proven player. Golden State is hoping to return to title contention next year and may not see anyone in the draft who could be a difference maker right away.

Coronavirus concerns canceled this year’s pre-draft showcases and made individual workouts impossible, so the Warriors have been relying on videos and Zoom chats to assess prospects.

Central Notes: Cavs’ Draft, T. Thompson, Prince, Bulls

The Cavaliers have Israeli forward Deni Avdija ranked in their second tier of draft prospects, according to Chris Fedor of Fedor states that the team has done “extensive homework” on Avdija, but evaluation is tricky because he had limited playing time in the EuroLeague.

At 6’9″, Avdija offers athleticism, versatility and play-making, but his outside shot is questionable. Forward is Cleveland’s primary position of need, but Fedor indicates the team plans to take the best player available, regardless of position. He identifies Anthony Edwards, James Wiseman and LaMelo Ball as the three players in the team’s first tier.

Fedor also says if the Cavs are interested in Obi Toppin, they should plan to use him as a power forward/center rather than a small forward. According to Fedor, Toppin doesn’t have the offensive skills or the lateral quickness to succeed on the perimeter in the NBA.

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • If the Cavaliers‘ season is over, fans may not get the chance to say goodbye to a pair of franchise cornerstones in Tristan Thompson and Matthew Dellavedova, writes Evan Dammarell of Forbes. With Thompson’s $18.5MM and Dellavedova’s $9.6MM contracts deal both coming off the books, Dammarell doesn’t expect either to return next season, although Dellavedova may be willing to accept a veteran’s minimum deal. Thompson told the organization he would like to be traded to a contender before the deadline, Dammarell states, but Cleveland didn’t like any of the offers it received.
  • Former Pistons star Tayshaun Prince has the experience to succeed as the team’s next general manager, contends Omari Sankofa II of The Detroit Free Press. Prince performs a variety of roles in the Grizzlies’ front office and has become an influential voice since being hired in 2017.
  • Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times looks back at a disappointing season for the Bulls that will be over unless the NBA decides to resume the season for all 30 teams. Cowley hands out a few awards, such as Zach LaVine as player of the year and Coby White as reserve of the year, and says the most significant event was John Paxson’s decision to tell ownership in December that changes were needed in the front office.

Draft Notes: Cisse, Kuminga, West, International

Forward Moussa Cisse, a top-10 prospect for the class of 2021, will graduate high school a year early and reclassify to this year with an eye toward the 2021 draft, Jonathan Givony of ESPN reports. Cisse was ranked No. 8 among prospects for the 2021 class. The 6’11” Cisse intends to commit to a top college program next week and has narrowed his choices to Kentucky, LSU, Florida State, Georgia, Memphis or Georgetown. “I am trying to find the best way to the NBA,” Cisse said.

We have more draft-related news:

  • Small forward Jonathan Kuminga, the top-ranked player on ESPN’s 2021 prospects list, has the option of reclassifying to this year and is considering the G League, according to Adam Zagoria of Kuminga is “50-50” on reclassifying, but has already narrowed his college choices to Auburn, Duke, Kentucky and Texas Tech, along with the possibility of joining the G League development program. Kuminga has been doing online schoolwork in order to graduate early, Zagoria adds.
  • Marshall guard Jarrod West has elected to withdraw from the draft and return to school for his senior season, Jeff Goodman of Stadium tweets. A three-year starter with the Thundering Herd, West averaged 14.2 PPG, 4.1 APG, and 4.0 RPG last season.
  • Killian Hayes, Deni Avdija and Abdoulaye N’Doye rank as the top international prospects in this year’s draft, according to Bryan Kalbrosky of Hoops Hype. Players who participated in the Australian NBL’s Next Stars program this past season were not included in the rankings. According to ESPN’s latest rankings, Avdija is the top overseas prospect at No. 5 overall with Hayes ranked at No. 9.

Wizards Notes: Draft, Avdiji, Hachimura, Giles

Deni Avdija, who is expected to go in the top 10 of the NBA draft, plays the style of basketball that the Wizards like, as Chase Hughes of NBC Sports details. His versatility and passing skills would fit well in Washington’s system, though his lack of shooting and rebounding may force the franchise to look at other options in the draft.

Here’s more from Washington:

  • The Wizards may see Rui Hachimura as their best young prospect on the roster, but former NBA executive John Hollinger believes that distinction goes to Troy Brown, as he explains on The Athletic. Brown, who is nearly 18 months younger than Hachimura, has play-making skills and Hollinger is curious why the young team didn’t feature the 20-year-old more often.
  • Washington is hoping that Hachimura can improve on defense and be the team’s go-to defender for larger wings, Hollinger passes along in the same piece.
  • The Wizards were terrible on the defensive end in 2019/20, but the franchise is hoping to acquire a rim protector this summer. Hollinger notes that either Thomas Bryant or Moritz Wagner could find themselves on another team as a result of Washington’s pursuit of a big.
  • Harry Giles is a name to watch for the Wizards’ mid-level exception, Hollinger relays in the same piece. JaVale McGee is another name worth monitoring, though the former executive cautions that it may not be feasible for the Wizards to use all of their mid-level, as they don’t want to enter the tax.

Pacific Notes: Warriors, Avdija, Lakers, Clippers

Even if the NBA is able to resume its 2019/20 season and play some regular season games before the playoffs begin, a team like the Warriors may not be involved, writes Anthony Slater of The Athletic. In fact, one source who spoke to Slater this week predicted that there’s “basically zero chance” of Golden State playing another regular season game this summer, even if other teams do.

As Slater explains, it’s possible the NBA will establish a new end-of-season schedule that doesn’t include the league’s 10 worst teams or so. That would allow playoff teams to get back to game speed and could give some teams just outside the playoff picture an outside shot at a postseason berth. In that scenario, clubs like the Warriors – who have no chance to make the playoffs – wouldn’t be required to return under unique circumstances only to play a handful of meaningless games.

Slater notes that there are other paths the NBA could take that might also exclude a team like the Warriors. The league could set up a play-in tournament for the last couple postseason spots or could advance directly to the playoffs based on the current standings without rescheduling any regular season games.

As we wait to see if any of those options will be viable, let’s round up a few more notes from out of the Pacific…

  • The Warriors were among the teams that took “a long look” at Israeli prospect Deni Avdija in Europe this season, according to Monte Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area, who examines whether the young forward might be a fit in Golden State.
  • With Los Angeles’ shelter-at-home order in place through at least May 15, it’s not clear when the city’s NBA teams might be able to reopen their practice facilities. According to ESPN’s Dave McMenamin, the Lakers have been in touch with the Los Angeles mayor’s office to explore whether it might be possible to open their facility before that stay-at-home order is lifted. As McMenamin details, the Lakers have a series of precautionary measures planned to ensure player safety and would establish a set schedule for when players are permitted to visit their practice facility.
  • As Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times writes, the Clippers are happy to retain assistant general manager Mark Hughes, who was one of several candidates to interview for Chicago’s open GM job. Greif takes an in-depth look at the role Hughes plays in Los Angeles and how he has become one of the most well-liked members of the Clips’ front office.

Projected Lottery Pick Avdija Prepares To Enter Draft

Israeli forward Deni Avdija has submitted paperwork to the NBA to make himself eligible for the draft, ESPN’s Jonathan Givony relays.

Ranked No. 5 overall by Givony, Avdija announced his intention to leave the EuroLeague and play in the NBA on ESPN’s morning show Get Up.

“First of all, the NBA is the best league in the world. There is a lot to learn over there and a lot of experience there,” Avdija said. “It’s going to be great to take my game to the next level.”

According to Givony’s analysis, the 6’9” Avdija is tall enough to play power forward but has the play-making skills of a point guard who excels as a passer in pick-and-rolls.

Viewed by many experts as the top foreign prospect in the draft, Avdija played this season for Maccabi Tel Aviv, averaging 7.0 PPG, 4.0 RPG and 1.6 APG in 19 MPG. He was named Most Valuable Player of the FIBA U20 European Championship last summer while dominating at both ends of the floor. He posted averages of 18.4 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 5.3 APG, 2.4 BPG and 2.1 SPG.

Although he posted modest stats for Maccabi, he was a young rotation player on a team that lost just once in Israeli League play and went 19-9 in the EuroLeague.