By: David Barr
With the National Basketball Association, Euroleague and Israel’s domestic Winner League on hold there’s no better time to look at the 2020 NBA Draft to help with a hoops fix.
Fran Fraschilla has done it all in basketball. A 23-year college coaching career to now lead analyst on ESPN college basketball broadcasts. He also provides commentary for the NBA Draft as well as the FIBA World Cup. A self-proclaimed international hoops nerd, Fraschilla has been on the Deni Avdija bandwagon for some time.
The Israeli protege has been dominant in the Israeli League this campaign averaging 12.3 points, 5.9 rebounds and 2.4 assists in 26.6 minutes per game while in the Euroleague Avdija’s averages are a more modest 4 points, 2.6 boards and 1.2 helpers in roughly 14 minutes per contest.
DB: Deni is a kid that really came on the radar in the FIBA U-16’s continuing to grow through U- 18 now playing for Maccabi Tel Aviv and Europa League. The kid is a 6’ 8” and a point forward that can do just about everything.
FF: What I love about Deni is not only is he an outstanding prospect because of his age, size and athleticism, but his versatility really stands out. You know he’s going to be able to hold his own and then some when he matures physically. He is going to be able to impact an NBA game on both ends of the floor. He’s a point forward, I don’t think his passing this year has been as good as we’ve seen in junior tournaments. He’s surrounded by a different level of athlete in the Euroleague and in the Israeli league but there’s no question, he has versatility. For his size and the way the game of basketball is transitioning to a “no position” game both internationally and in the NBA, I think fits nicely into his future.
DB: He may not be finished growing. His body is still maturing and there is a big difference between now and U-16’s.
FF: I think he’s made a big jump from last year to this year, particularly with Maccabi. You can definitely see how much stronger he is and it manifests itself on defense as Tel Aviv does a lot of free switching defensively. He has been able to not only handle his own keeping smaller guards in front of him. But his strength and his defensive technique in the low post has kept him at his age from being a mismatch issue from Maccabi. He holds his ground really well. You can see a significant change in his physical strength from a year ago, so you know I know he thinks he’s still growing just turning 19. It’s possible that he ends up taller. You know when we all saw the Greek Freak (Giannis Antetokounmpo) in Juniors of his draft year about a couple weeks before the draft actually in a tournament in Italy he was probably 6’9” at the most and we’ve seen what’s happened he added a couple inches. I don’t know that Deni’s going to get that, but he’s physically stronger and more mature and is on his way I think to be able to handle himself at the highest level of basketball physically.
DB: He can rebound. His court vision is really good. He gets the board, kicks it out and goes, which means people are gonna love to play with him and of course we know his game is very versatile on offense. Where has his game grown from Juniors to now?
FF: Well, I think the growth comes from physical maturity. There’s no question that a lot of the things that he’s capable of doing now when you see him on the court for Maccabi, whether it’s in the Euro League or where he’s got more substantial role in the Israeli league. The growth has definitely come from physical maturity. He certainly has a high IQ for the game that manifests itself at every level. So those two things, I think, and the fact that his athleticism and skill level allow him to be that versatile offensive player that I talked about. If I had to put it into two words – they would be athleticism and versatility which makes him such an intriguing NBA prospect. It makes him a lottery level prospect. He’s comfortable with the ball in his hands and out. His effort level is high. He’s competitive. You can tell he’s an emotional kid. So, I think he’s got a lot of qualities that have intrigued NBA teams, and there’s a reason why he’s a likely top three to top eight pick in this draft. I don’t think there’s any question about that.
DB: And the hole in his game is?
FF: The biggest thing he’s got to do is continue to work on his outside shoot. It looks good coming off his hand. I think there’s a minor flaw I see from watching his tape. I’ve watched every jump shot he’s taken this year on tape and he’s got some things to correct from a from a shot mechanics standpoint, but it’s very fixable he gets the ball off quickly. He’s confident when he shoots it. He just has to make more shots and I think that’s going to really separate him from being a good NBA player to eventually in time a great NBA player by the time he’s in his mid-20’s.
DB: He has a really nice advantage in that he is playing with a professional team in Israel in a highly competitive league and then of course in the best league outside of the NBA in Euroleague. He plays with some veterans that really can help him. The influence of those older guys on him, banging around in practice and in games and doing those things giving advice. It’s a big advantage for a kid his age.
FF: When it when somebody likes somebody like the Danilo Gallinari or Luka Doncic, who were both prodigies is similar to the way that he is now. So, I certainly wouldn’t put Deni in Luka’s category but certainly a level below Luka is still awfully good. I have found through the years that when you have a young international player playing in Europe where there are American players on his team that they tend to be really good role models for him, and then they all had it, I remember Melvin Booker and Casey Shaw played with Danilo and Milan, Luka certainly had it with all of his teammates in Madrid and Deni’s exposure to NBA basketball because of you know guys like Quincy Acy, Othello Hunter, Tarik Black, Nate Wolters those guys will have absolutely had a positive effect on his adjustment to the NBA because they pretty much set the roadmap for him, and I’ve seen this so many times with the elite level European kids would come over to the NBA. The fact that his English is perfect. The fact that he’s a very gregarious kid and he’s got great teammates. These are all going to speed his process of adjustment to the league without a doubt.
DB: We are in unchartered waters worldwide from a health and basketball perspective with all the FIBA sanctioned tournaments being postponed and canceled with Euro League and Winner League having pushed pause on their seasons because of the Coronavirus. How difficult of a job is it for these international scouting directors from the NBA, to get a good feel on these kids or are they relying a lot Junior tournament performances to get a good feel for them as their game tapes are way shortened this year before the draft.
FF: My experience has been that the very best NBA international scouts have this draft buttoned up whenever it happens. They’re already brought their general managers over to see guys during the season, and again this was always a big window during and after the NCAA tournament to get the last look at these top prospects. But it’s been my experience that the teams who are really buttoned up internationally already have their pecking order of guys set. There are other teams that are going to be scrambling for things like background information and medical records. These are all going to be issues for teams who haven’t done their homework. Information wins in NBA scouting, it always has, and it always will. Some are ahead of the curve. And there’s always going to be some that are behind it. Whoever selects Avdija will definitely be ahead of it.