Maccabi Tel Aviv star Deni Avdija (right) in in the Israeli Basketball Premier League final in Tel Aviv, July 28, 2020. (Flash90/Danny Meron) (Flash90/Danny Meron)
Deni Avdija

The 19-year-old from Israel is ‘generally considered the best player of his generation in Europe.’

By Yakir Benzion, United With Israel

The youngest player ever to play for Israel’s Maccabi Tel Aviv basketball team says he’s not only ready to jump to the NBA, he’s hoping to be one of the top picks when the top league in the world holds its draft on Wednesday.

“Being one of the top 10 picks in the NBA Draft is for sure a goal for every player,” said Deni Avdija, 19, in a Zoom call with reporters last week. “But for me, it’s less this and more being at the right team, with the right situation that can help me develop and be the best Deni I can be. At the end of the day, you look at the end of your career and not with which pick you were drafted.”

The Los Angeles Times predicted that Avdija “is projected to be highest NBA drafted Israeli player.”

The first Israeli to be drafted was Doron Sheffer in 1996 by the Los Angeles Clippers and was a decade later that Lior Eliyahu was drafted by the Orlando Magic and the Seattle SuperSonics picked Yotam Halperin. In 2017 the Indiana Pacers drafted T. J. Leaf who was born in Israel, but grew up in California.

The most successful Israeli basketball player is still Omri Casspi who was drafted by the Sacramento Kinds in 2009 and had a successful 10-year career in the NBA before returning to Israel.

Last season, Caspi played with Avdija and the two led Maccabi to its 54th national league title .

The NBA draft website says the 6-9, 225-pound Avdija helped Israel win the FIBA U-20 European Championships in 2018 and 2019, when he was selected as the tournament MVP despite being a year or two younger than the other players.

“He’s a good ball-handler with the versatility to lead the break, run the offense in half court or play from the post. He also became the youngest player ever to play for Maccabi Tel Aviv to start his professional career in 2017,” the NBA scouting report said.

The website says Avdija “is generally considered the best player of his generation in Europe … he has been amazing at FIBA’s Youth championships for years–he could be a two-way force with [a] great offensive skill set and above average defensive potential.”



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