Avdija an intriguing option for Chicago Bulls at No. 4
The most popular pick for the Bulls in numerous NBA mock drafts seems to be Israeli forward Deni Avdija.
He's certainly an intriguing candidate. His highlights showcase a 6-foot-9 forward with a wide variety of skills. He can handle the ball and score, but his best traits probably are his passing, court vision and basketball IQ.
Avdija brings to mind a couple of other European success stories. He was a multiskilled, teenage phenom, much like Dallas star Luka Doncic was in his home country of Slovenia. And Avdija's passing skills bring to mind Arturas Karnisovas' greatest success story from Denver, center Nikola Jokic, the rare big man who can shoot from the outside and also pile up assists.
During a Zoom conference with reporters Wednesday, Avdija declined to go into specifics about which teams he has met with and worked out for, but it's safe to say the Bulls have been in touch. A recent story claimed Golden State was "blown away" by a workout Avdija held in Atlanta. The Warriors own the No. 2 overall pick in the Nov. 18 NBA Draft, two spots in front of the Bulls.
"I don't really care where I go, I just care that the team that's going to draft me is going to maximize my potential and I'll be a good part of the team," Avdija said. "At the end of the day, that's my goal."
The problem with projecting the 19-year-old Avdija is he's not Doncic or Jokic. He stands almost exactly between those two players.
At 6-9, it's a stretch to imagine Avdija playing with the ball in his hands, running the offense and being a dominant scorer, like Doncic. Jokic is a burly center who can rebound and hold his own in the paint.
Avdija is forward-sized and still putting on weight. His outside shot is a work in progress, so it's not clear yet if he'll be a 3-point threat who can pull defenders to the perimeter then drive past them.
Maybe he'll be a unique talent who will find a way to succeed in the NBA. But there have been a long list of Europeans who were supposed to be the next Sabonis or Nowitzki or Ginobili who didn't pan out. And a common NBA draft dilemma is the in-between forward, guys who aren't quick enough to be a true wing player at the three, but aren't big or strong enough to mix it up inside at the four.
Playing for powerhouse Macabbi Tel Aviv, Avdija barely got on the floor in EuroLeague play last season. In the less challenging Israel league, he averaged 13.5 points and 6.1 rebounds, while shooting a respectable 38.7 percent from 3-point range.
Avdija talked Wednesday about what he wanted to show teams when he did work out in person.
"First of all, how competitive I am and how much I like to work and how much I love to come to the gym and improve myself and improve my game in general," he said. "And just to show my personality. I'm having fun.
"At the end of the day, I'm playing basketball and practicing. I'm doing the thing I love, so I might as well go in the gym, smile, put on some music, work on my game and just love to improve. Smile and just be myself."
Is Avdija about to be the next big European import, or is he more of a project with a questionable fit in the NBA? The Bulls have another week to come up with an answer.
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