The Washington Wizards selected Deni Avdija (pronounced Denny AHV-dee-uh) from Maccabi Tel Aviv (Israel) with the ninth overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft.
Avdija, a 6-9, 225-pound forward, becomes the highest-drafted Israeli player in NBA history. He averaged 18.4 points, 8.3 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 2.4 blocks and 2.1 steals to earn MVP honors at the 2019 FIBA U-20 European Championships and helped Israel win the gold medal in back-to-back FIBA U-20 European Championships in 2018 and 2019.
“We were absolutely thrilled to get the opportunity to select Deni at the ninth pick and add his versatility, toughness and effort on the defensive end to our roster,” said Wizards General Manager Tommy Sheppard. “While he is a young player who is still developing, he has great experience playing at a high level both professionally and in international competition.”
Avdija has played professionally the last three seasons with Maccabi Tel Aviv. He averaged 12.3 points, 5.9 rebounds and 2.4 assists in 26.6 minutes in 2019-20 Israeli League play, shooting .555 overall from the field while ranking third in two-point percentage (.673) and 21st in three-point percentage (.375). Avdija was named MVP of Basketball Without Borders Europe in 2018 and the BWB Global Camp in 2019 and earned All-Event honors at the 2018-19 EuroLeague Next Generation Tournament while playing for Maccabi’s Under-18 team.
“I love Deni’s competitive spirit and feel for the game and I’m excited to help him continue to improve when we begin camp in a few weeks,” said Wizards Head Coach Scott Brooks. “His toughness and overall skill set will allow us to use him in multiple lineups and allow him to seamlessly blend in with our team.”
And from the Washington Post:
Now 19 and 6-foot-9 with a guard’s ballhandling skills, Avdija should be able to bolster the Wizards’ defensive presence on the perimeter and, at times, play alongside forward Rui Hachimura, the international pick the Wizards took at No. 9 last year.
Washington loved how many different boxes he ticked. Sheppard called Avdija a “blend player,” and Wizards Coach Scott Brooks highlighted his professional experience playing in pro leagues and for the Israeli national team.
“I love his toughness. I love his IQ. As a coach, you never have to worry about a player playing hard,” Brooks said. “That’s what [Avdija] does. He steps on the court and he competes. He’s going to make our practices better and our games better. … The thing that I like is most of his career you play against guys who are older than you. He’s played against men in the leagues that he’s played in.”
The youngest player to ever play for Maccabi’s Senior Team (debuting at 16 years, 320 days), Avdija played with several former NBA players during his tenure, including Amar’e Stoudemire, Omri Casspi, Quincy Acy and Tarik Black. His father, Zufer, won bronze at the 1982 FIBA Basketball World Championship with Yugoslavia and was a pro in Serbia and Israel in the 1980’s and 1990’s while his mother, Sharon Artzi, is a former championship runner.