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Deni Avdija Declares for 2020 NBA Draft; Projected Top-5 Overall Pick

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistApril 16, 2020

MUNICH, GERMANY - MARCH 07: Deni Avdija of Maccabi Fox Tel Aviv looks on prior to the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague match between FC Bayern Munich and Maccabi Fox Tel Aviv at Audi Dome on March 07, 2019 in Munich, Germany. (Photo by TF-Images/Getty Images)
TF-Images/Getty Images

Maccabi Tel Aviv star Deni Avdija has declared for the 2020 draft in an appearance on ESPN's Get Up on Thursday morning.   

Avdija averaged 12.3 points and 5.9 rebounds while shooting 67.3 percent from the field and 37.5 percent from three-point range in the Israeli Basketball Premier League, per Eurobasket.

The 19-year-old's production understandably dipped when the quality of competition climbed in the EuroLeague. He averaged 4.0 points and 2.6 rebounds in 26 appearances.

He also represented Israel as it won gold at the 2019 FIBA U20 European Championship. He was the team's leading scorer (18.4 points) en route to earning MVP for the tournament.

Avdija's draft stock began climbing as the 2019-20 season wore on. In his most recent mock draft, Bleacher Report's Jonathan Wasserman projected him as the No. 2 pick to the Cleveland Cavaliers. 

Many have commented on the lack of depth in the 2020 draft class, with some drawing parallels to the 2013 draft, when the Cleveland Cavaliers selected Anthony Bennett first overall. That arguably gives a team even more reason to swing for a home run on an international prospect such as Avdija early in the first round.

For as bad as the 2013 draft was, it included Giannis Antetokounmpo and Rudy Gobert.

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ESPN's Mike Schmitz argued in February that Avdija deserved to be grouped together with the best players in the 2020 class, citing his 6'9", 225-pound frame, flexibility and professional experience as marks in his favor.

Schmitz wrote he was drawing some comparisons to Dario Saric, but that his ceiling is higher than the Phoenix Suns forward's:

"While Saric is a realistic floor, what could really make Avdija special is if he's able to fully tap into his on-ball skill, growing into more of a jumbo guard. Fine-tuning his handle, off hand and pull-up jumper are going to be key. But I've seen enough glimpses of pull-up threes and pick-and-roll shot-creation in junior competition to wonder whether he could become the primary ball-handler in the right system."

Fans should avoid getting too far ahead of themselves and using Luka Doncic as a template for Avdija.

Doncic had become a key player for Real Madrid and was the EuroLeague MVP before making the jump to the NBA. The Spanish league regularly tested him more than Avdija has been in Israel.

But the immediate success Doncic enjoyed with the Dallas Mavericks showed how a European player can hit the ground running in the Association.

If you're not yet familiar with Avdija, get ready to hear his name quite a bit in the months leading up to the draft.