Deni Avdija interview: Deni was the big star of the 2019 FIBA U20 European Championship. He helped Israel win the gold medal. Avdija earned the MVP honors and showed what great potential he has with his performance in every match. So what are the elements that make up his potential? Why is he the best European player, in my opinion, in the 2020 NBA Draft? My interview with him, opinion…
Deni Avdija interview: Avdija had started to show potential with his performances at National Team levels. The Israeli player was starting to perform big on the U16 team.
“My first sport was soccer. I wasn’t bad, but I had enough of soccer. I didn’t want to play anymore and I stopped focusing in practice. That was about third/fourth grade and the basketball league only started in fourth. My father asked me if I wanted to try to play and I said, ‘Why not?’ But then I said, ‘They’ll all be older than me, etc.’ and he said, ‘Don’t worry. It will be okay. Just try it.’ I tried and as you can see, it went well. I’m here man!”
Student of the game
I watched him at Ulker Sports and Event Hall and Sinan Erdem Arena in this season. He still 18 years old, he took responsibility at critical moments, sometimes leading the team as well. He was also watching the game carefully when he was on the bench. Avdija seemed to note what his coach said, as well as the performances of his teammates.
He also gave the team the right directives in off-ball games on the field, he did not hesitate to take responsibility. He scored 10 points against Gran Canaria in the EuroLeague. In the Israeli league, he increased his effectiveness in the game towards playoff matches. After the end of the 2019 Draft, the star nominees in the 2020 Draft began to be talked about. Deni Avdija is one of those candidates. So why?
His on-court skills, as well as his off-field characters, make him special. He says every one of his teammates is a good teacher for him and he’s learned something in every game.
He can also take some very big responsibility in the match sometimes. When the team gets stuck on offense, he can solve problems by throwing threes or throwing a great pass.
“I love going out with my girlfriend, spending time with my family, playing Playstation, going to the beach and relaxing and eating.”
“It’s hard for me to say anything about my own character, but my friends think I’m fun and cool.I think they’re right. I like to do fun things when I’m not playing basketball. I enjoy observing around me and joking about things.“
Of course, I’d say he’s obsessed with basketball. He’s always obsessed with the best. After a Zalgiris Kaunas match they played at Adidas Next Generation, “It’s not just me. I want to take responsibility. I didn’t have a good game,” he said.
Avdija’s self-criticism arrived after finished the match with 19 points (6/10 2-pointers, 0/8 3-pointers), 12 rebounds, seven assists, but also eight turnovers.
“I did my stuff. It didn’t go well for me. They [my teammates] kept their lead. I’m very proud of them. They played like real men. And it’s their win as is mine.”
The first thing I can say about Deni Avdija is he has incredible passing abilities. Amazing ball handling, passing skills, and basketball IQ are Avdija’s most notable features. Avdija has a lot of good passer players in his age group but his game feels a lot different. If he starts the transition offense himself, he gives the right pass to score very quickly.
“Back in the youth teams, physically i was one of the worst athletes. Narrow shoulders, weak lower body… I was good at dripling but had difficulties in contact. I began to like basketball less and less each day which is why i focused on my physical improvement in order to control the game. Changed my diet and put on weights along with long cardio sessions.”
I think his basketball intelligence and game instincts are the most important feature that sets him apart from the rest. Double-team comes when he penetrates the painted area. He makes a very effective pass connection in pick and roll games with the advantage of length. Avdija passing over the top of the defense while showing great timing when coming off a pick.
It is also very nice for the Israeli player to make a quick decision in a sensible way. He shows his creativity by taking responsibility in transition offenses or in situations where the offensive set cannot be applied. If a set attack is planned, he brings the ball to half-court and then applies the set role. He can play off-screen or pick & pops with the guard if he can finish the offense himself. He has the wide court vision (coast to coast etc.), the quickness move to opponent defenders and the overall willingness to pass the ball.
“It’s been a pleasure working with coach Ioannis Sfairoploulos. He comes up to me after our practice and tells me my pros and cons. For example, in a game earlier in the season, I made a simple swtich mistake in defence. He called me to his side after the game and talked about the importance of that position. Then in our first practice, he set up the same offensive position and asked me to do defense. After a few attempts, I was successful. He says that since then, my mistakes in switch have diminished. In our private conversations, he talks about my talent, my love of learning and my hard work. So he’s an ideal coach figure. I am lucky.“
Avdija knows how to take advantage of the attention he attracts from the opponent defense when penetrating, finding the open man in the wing, or he passes to the center, which is in the painted area. He sometimes overuses all of these passing skills, meaning he gives -sometimes- unnecessary extra passes or painted field passes when he can comfortably go to the basket. He should develop a decision-making mechanism.
His mobility, his shot threat in the perimeter and his three-point shot from wings are the Israeli young star’s most important offensive weapons. Avdija can create space on the perimeter and three-point line; combines the great shoot mechanism with the right timing and footwork to increase the hit rate.
“Defending more than one position is one of the most important criteria in modern basketball, ı think. Because all teams ‘ offensive strategies are based on screen play. You have to be quick with your hands, you have to be able to analyze the position correctly and you have to go on offense to get the ball. Because the other important criterion is increased tempo. You need to take the ball and dribble it into the opposing field and use the penetration channels with pass or drive. You also have to get a hit rate on three-point shots.”
Deni Avdija’s Skillset
His near all-around low or post play allows him to take advantage of mismatches. His mobility, the physical advantage he brings in length, basketball intelligence and position knowledge provide that. In terms of passing skills, I say he has incredible ball handling. These skills combined with his IQ, speed and shooting threat make him a tough player to stop when driving to the basket.
On the perimeter, Deni Avdija plays with energy and a good motor. On the three-point line, however, he has to improve. He may be throwing his shot suddenly on sets or transitions, but his hit rate is low compared to mid-range. Of course, he is young and works so hard. He’s got to improve his body balance, his timing of getting the ball out of his hands and his position when he throws the shot, just like in the perimeter/mid-range.
Taking a look at his shot style; he positions his feet half a step ahead of the body line. After his fingers completely touch the ground, he jumps and throws the ball into the basket at a 45-degree angle with head alignment. A quick but low hitting style that is unlikely to be a field goal.
When he can’t find a hit, he goes to the net, but usually, the rebound gets to the opponent. His frustration is a little obvious after every shot that is hit, but he does not experience a mental decline in the match.
“I think my shot is a little better this year. This transition is difficult because I’m trying to change my shot mechanism. Then team training and finally individual work… In my individual workouts, I work in on my shooting, rebounding, passing and game-reading skills. (Laughing) I want to play basketball forever. So I will always keep working.”
I think his rebounding ability is underrated. He’s good at rebounding as well as his passing ability and his ability to shoot a perimeter. He’s not very good at offensive rebounding but he’s always willing and struggling to rebound on behalf of his team. On the defensive rebound, he stands a little behind and, at the moment of the shot, suddenly comes into the rebound struggle and takes it from very high.
It’s good for him to have very fast hands in his neck and to have an advantage in footwork generally and to use his energy consistently and actively on defense. He can play five positions on offense but his work is very hard on defense. Muscle mass and stiffness are very weak when viewed from the outside.
He is in a situation where there are pros but there are cons as well. He defends the defending player well up to the free-throw line but it is very difficult for Avdija to stop them when his opponent steps in to go to the basket. He’s really good at defense in post games and three-point defense but the switch, perimeter, transition, layup, and baseline games aren’t enough for Avdija’s defensive strength.
Avdija’s positioning and his skills to defend verticality should enable him to be a smart interior help defender at the other level. He’s unlikely to be a very elite defender but he has enough attributes to be a good defender.
Characteristically, looks like Kobe Bryant. Just like Kobe, Avdija is basketball-obsessed. He’s always working to fix his mistakes. Avdija is similar to Kobe Bryant in that he throws some shots unreservedly on the court, not allowing instant collapses in a mental sense.
He is similar to Gordon Hayward. Hayward is not as good of a passer as Avdija. The rest of his features are pretty much the same.
“I’ve gotten to learn here from a wide range of experienced players, and I always try to take the best qualities from each.”
Shooting styles, going to the basket styles, ball handlings. Avdija’s ball-handling is very soft. He slowly builds up the offense without bouncing the ball too hard. He bounces the ball hard and drives when going to change direction.
It may be good to describe his role in the NBA in general by the term “point forward”. Generally, teams employ a point forward when their best playmaker is a forward rather than a point guard.
A point forward is typically responsible for bringing the ball up the court and being the primary facilitator on offense but may merely direct play once a guard brings the ball up-court.
We can refer to players like Magic Johnson, John Johnson, Scottie Pippen, Luka Doncic and Ben Simmons by that term. Although he needs to develop a little more in physique, Avdija is likely to be in this play style.
He is a player who as a striker has very good scoring abilities and also has elite passing abilities. His role in the NBA could be minimal during his rookie season, meaning he might be the bench’s strength rather than the team’s main offensive weapon.
“I want to get better every day and help the team win.”
It’s still unclear what his main role will be, depending on his fit of pace in the NBA, but his talent could make him among the best point forwards in the league.
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