NBA Rumors: Latest Buzz on Warriors' Deni Avdija Interest, Kings' Luke Walton

Martin FennContributor IIIApril 29, 2020

Maccabi Fox Tel Aviv's Deni Avdija controls the ball during the Euro League basketball match between Olimpia Milan and Maccabi Fox Tel Aviv, in Milan, Italy, Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni)
Antonio Calanni/Associated Press

If the NBA season ended today, the Golden State Warriors would have earned a share of the best odds at the NBA draft lottery. 

Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said he does not expect his team to have any more games this year, though the NBA hasn't ruled out finding a way to play out the 2019-20 season.

The Dubs (15-50) had the worst record in basketball prior to the suspension of play due to the coronavirus pandemic. Injuries to Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry decimated their season and—just one year removed from making their fifth consecutive NBA Finals appearance—the Warriors are primed for a top pick this summer.

The question is: Who will the Warriors select with that pick?

Golden State still has an excellent foundation in place. Curry and Thompson will return fully healthy, and the Warriors acquired Andrew Wiggins to be a kind of "third" fiddle to their top two stars. Of course, having the opportunity to draft one of the top prospects in the 2020 draft class is also some small consolation for the losing.

Ric Bucher of Bleacher Report indicated former University of Memphis center James Wiseman is at the top of Golden State's big board. The fit would seem to make sense.

Even during their dynastic run at the end of the last decade, the Warriors lacked an impact big man to hold down the middle and solidify the frontcourt. Wiseman might be the kind of traditional, low-post big who can also get out on the break and use his length to alter shots.

However, the Warriors have also kept their eyes on another big man: international prospect Deni Avdija.

Monte Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area reported the Warriors were "among those taking a long look" at Avdija, who played the 2019-20 with Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv in Israel.

Avdija averaged 12.3 points, 5.9 rebounds and 2.4 assists in the Israeli League while shooting over 67 percent from the field and better than 37 percent from beyond the arc, per Eurobasket. However, he is mostly regarded as a project player.

One Western Conference scout told Poole "he's a piece, period, with an opportunity to be a very good piece and a chance to be even more."

Perhaps the Warriors are envisioning Avdija as the next guy up for the franchise after Curry and Thompson begin to decline. Even if he cannot contribute a ton of minutes early, he might be a guy who can pick-and-pop and provide good distribution for his teammates.


Walton, Divac Likely to Remain With Kings

Steve Dipaola/Associated Press

Vlade Divac took a big risk in firing Dave Joerger and hiring Luke Walton to be the new head coach of the Sacramento Kings at the start of the 2019-20 season.

Joerger had led the Kings to 39 wins last season, their most in 13 years. Walton, meanwhile, went 98-148 in three seasons as the head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers.

Early on, it appeared Divac had made a mistake. The Kings entered the new year with a 12-22 record. After losing to the Lakers at the start of February, Sacramento was 13 games below the .500 mark. Granted, key players like Marvin Bagley III and De'Aaron Fox had suffered lengthy injuries, but things were bleak.

Sam Amick, Shams Charania and Jason Jones of The Athletic reported Kings owner Vivek Ranadive was growing more and more frustrated with the front office and coaching. It seemed possible changes were on the horizon if Walton could not right the ship.

But the Kings rallied, winning five of their first six games after the All-Star break, and it seemed they might even make a late run at the No. 8 seed in the West prior to the suspension of play.

In any case, Ranadive's mind appears to have changed. Amick reported both Walton and Divac are "very likely" to remain with the team next season.    

To his credit, Walton has managed to navigate a host of distractions. Bagley's availability has been a question all year, and Walton also had to deal with some unrest on the part of shooting guard Buddy Hield, though he told Amick the two have a "very good relationship."

Walton and Divac figure to have the chance to run it back next year as they look to establish some stability and continuity for a franchise that has lacked just that for some time.