Israeli forward Deni Avdija is Knicks’ ultimate NBA Draft wild card

Deni Avdija is not like most potential NBA lottery picks.

With the Israeli League season indefinitely suspended, Avdija, a 6-foot-9 forward for Maccabi Tel Aviv, was inducted into the Israeli Defense Forces on April 1.

Avdija showed up with his parents and agent Matan Siman-tov at the Tel HaShomer army base to start the completion of his nation’s military obligation.

For now, Avdija will do whatever asked of the army during this global pandemic, but will complete his military service somewhere in North America as an “Exceptional Athlete.’’

NBA personnel men have to decide how exceptional. It’s almost certain the sharpshooter will become Israel’s first NBA lottery pick. Most insiders have him being selected somewhere between the fourth and eighth picks.

If the lottery is held, the Knicks own a 62.7 percent chance of picking between No. 6 and No. 9.

While the Knicks’ need for a point guard is glaring, draft guru Fran Fraschilla says this is the lottery to take the best player available with no definite star in the draft.

Avdija could turn into a “stretch 4’’ as he matures — a secondary need for the Knicks.

“This is a very tricky draft with little surefire quality,’’ one Western Conference scout told The Post. “Deni is as good as any of the available lottery picks. Where does he go in the crazy world the NBA scouts are living in? It’s anyone’s guess.’’

Long Island product, Brad Greenberg, who coaches in the Israeli League and faced Avdija multiple times the past two seasons, said if you told him in September he’d be projected a 2020 high lottery pick, he’d be “skeptical.’’ Not anymore after a solid season in which he averaged 12.3 points and shot 37.5 percent from 3 in Israeli League play.

“He made some significant jumps this year,’’ Greenberg said. “But don’t judge him on what he is at 19 on a roster, even 20. This a guy if he continues to get better like he did the last eight to 10 months, if he keeps that upwardness, he’s going to be a player. How good, it’s hard to say. It’s projections.

“You just have to be patient. You can’t expect him to step into an NBA camp and be just mature enough as a player to give you a lot, if anything. You just got to just believe he’ll do it in a couple of more years. It’s foolish to think he’s going to step in and do a Luka Doncic on anybody’’

Submit your Knicks questions here to be answered in an upcoming Post mailbag

With the predraft process bereft of in-person player workouts or interviews, teams will have more challenges sizing up Avdija.

The Knicks could have an edge. David Blatt, the former Maccabi Tel Aviv coach, is part of Leon Rose’s current front-office staff and could yield more intel.

“If Doncic is Mozart, this kid is Elton John,’’ Fraschilla said. “He’s going to be really good — a Dario Saric-type player, but more perimeter oriented. He’s a point forward, defends multiple positions, plays with a chip on his shoulder and worthy of being one of the top eight picks. He’ll be a versatile NBA starter someday on a playoff team.’’

Another NBA scout who hones in on overseas play thinks the Avdija buzz is overblown because of Doncic’s rise to greatness.

“He’s solid but I don’t see a top-six,’’ that scout said. “The NBA is like fashion. The kid’s status is high thanks to Doncic. The Euro guys are back in that conversation.’’

Greenberg, who coaches Maccabi Ashdod, notes last season Avdija got limited minutes in both Israeli League games and the stronger Euroleague matches.

In 2019-20, interrupted in early March, he got solid minutes in Israeli play but still less in Euroleague. It’s worth noting Israeli coaches have to play their country’s players a set amount in league games but have no restrictions in the stiffer European contests.

“You’re talking about a guy who plays 12 minutes a game in the Euroleague,’’ Greenberg said. “It’s not Luka Doncic. It’s more Cedric Osman, and I like Osman.’’

Osman, a Turkish 6-8 small forward who was the 31st pick in the 2015 draft, is now 25. He averaged 11.4 points on 38.3 percent from 3-point land for the Cavaliers in his third season.

“Deni can handle the ball, he can drive, he can pass,’’ Greenberg said. “He’s got a nice offensive skill set. His shooting will get better and better because he’s a hard worker. He’s a solid shooter, better shooter than Cedi.”

According to Greenberg, he’s been told the Raptors sent more scouts to see the Israeli than most clubs.

“Everybody’s come and seen him,’’ Greenberg said. “In his draft class, he’s at the top of 18-, 19-year-olds in Europe. History tells you the best two European players in an age group turns out a pretty good pro.’’

Source: Read Full Article