When the Washington Wizards drafted Deni Avdija with the 9th overall pick in November, he became the highest ever drafted player out of Israel, and the first ever taken in the lottery.
This fact has made the Jewish player get a little more international recognition than a player of his stature otherwise might have. He’s already been parodied (see here) on a top sketch comedy show in Israel that is similar to their version of “Saturday Night Live,” and he’s only played in 19 games thus far.
While some might struggle with this newfound attention, the 19-year-old has experience playing professionally already, and in that time was able to learn from a longtime NBA veteren Amar’e Stoudemire when the two played together for Maccabi Tel Aviv.
Amar’e Stoudemire had a long and successful career in the NBA, where he played 14 seasons, was All-NBA 5 times, and won Rookie of the Year in 2003. After his time in the league, he then went overseas eventually landing in Israel, where he went on to win MVP of the league and then met the young forward who would be drafted by the Wizards.
Tel Aviv is where the NBA vet ended up becoming a brain for the young player to pick. “Deni is on the right track. He works hard. He’s trying to keep himself focused on the game of basketball. He’s always in the gym working,” he said according to Eurohoops.
Advice like this is sure to help younger players as they are learning what it takes to be a professional basketball player. Oftentimes, the newness of that lifestyle can be overwhelming for players. That’s why it’s a great situation that he had playing in Israel, getting a chance to learn in ways hardly any player gets before going to the NBA.
Even with the extra notoriety being one of the few Jewish players in the league, the NBA Fantasy League community was not too high on his prospects, with him being averaged as the 139th player drafted on ESPN.
Although he has not come out and lit the league on fire, he’s proven to be a reliable player starting his career. He’s currently averaging 7.1 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 1.7 assists per game, and has started 16 of the 19 games so far.
Plenty of NBA Fantasy League players are still unaware of the quality play out of the rookie, with him only being rostered on 8.8% of teams on ESPN. While he certainly isn’t a top tier player, he’s still proven to put up stats on a consistent basis. Plus, with such a few games under his belt, he’s still learning how to play in the NBA and will be able to improve with more experience.
There were a lot of questions about this draft class coming into the year, with no clear favorite for the Rookie of the Year Award. A lot of picks were considered projects who might not develop for a couple of seasons, this led to a lot of uncertainty of who might be a player right away.
According to OddsShark, his odds for the award are at +15000, which is a long shot. If you were wondering why his odds might be so poor right now, it’s mostly due to the incredible play of fellow rookies Lamelo Ball of the Hornets, and Tyrese Haliburton of the Kings. Ball is leading in odds at -400 and Haliburton in second at +550. These two are the clear frontrunners, so anybody who is using a sports betting app should know this before placing a bet.
Hopefully with the wise tutelage of Amar’e Stoudemire, the up-and-coming Deni Avdija will be able to put his raw talent together with experience in the NBA. There will be a lot of interest in him from the Jewish community, and he’s proven so far that he has a role in the league.