Deni Avdija, Highest Drafted Jewish Hooper Ever, Climbs Fantasy Basketball Ranks

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Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving (11) defends Washington Wizards forward Deni Avdija (9) as Avdija drives toward the Wizards basket during the second quarter of a preseason NBA basketball game, Sunday, Dec. 13, 2020, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

The Washington Wizards are going to have a bit of extra international attention this season. After drafting 19 year old forward Deni Avdija out of Israel this year, the rookie became only the 5th player ever drafted out of the country, and the highest at pick number 9.

While his home country might be one reason he’s gaining attention, keen eyed fantasy basketball owners are also starting to notice his play as he grows into his role through the first part of the season.

What to watch for

Coming into season there was not all too much faith that Deni would come out and immediately be a productive player. He was drafted for his potential, not his ability to produce right away. The basketball community at large showed this skepticism when drafting him in fantasy basketball leagues on ESPN, where he came in with an average draft position of 139th overall and 51st in the small forward category.

Through the first 11 games of his career he is averaging 7 points, 4 rebounds, and 2.2 assists per game. While these numbers don’t jump out as extraordinary, they should inspire confidence in him to continue at this pace at a minimum, with plenty of upside to improve. Just last week against the Heat he put up a career high 20 points. 

If you’re looking for an ESPN fantasy basketball tip, picking up Avdija at the small forward position might be the spark your team needs. He’s only rostered on 16.2% of teams on ESPN, so people are not yet picking up on the decent start he’s put together.

One area for optimism moving forward is that the young forward is shooting very efficiently so far this season. While he isn’t getting a plethora of looks, only about 6 per game, but he’s making a high mark at 45% from the field, and 45% from three. If those can stay nearly as consistent throughout the season, don’t be shocked to see the attempts increase. 

Home country pride

Seeing Israel as the home country for a player is not too common of a sight for NBA fans. Being the 9th overall pick of the NBA draft back in November, Deni officially beat out TJ Leaf as the highest pick ever from the country, and the first lottery pick. 

While the extra attention might prove tough for some players of his age, Avdija already has experience playing professionally for Maccabi Tel Aviv,  and appears quite prepared for what the expectations might be for him.

“It’s exciting. Any time you can make history or any kind of good thing to represent the Jewish community and the state of Israel, that’s an honor for me,” he said back at the NBA Draft Combine, before being drafted.

Team Struggle

One reason Deni Avdija might not be on the mind of NBA fans is because of the struggle of the team as of this point. After trading for guard Russell Westbrook this offseason, there were high hopes that the former MVP would help turn things around from the past few seasons of sub-mediocrity.

Unfortunately, through the first 11 games they are a paltry 3-8. Although for some who may have been using a sports betting app to pick games against the spread, Washington has been a pleasant surprise going 6-5 against the spread. 

With a few new pieces, the Wizards will hope that as chemistry improves the team will be netting more victories, especially if Bradley Beal continues his excellent run. Plus, the splash they made adding Westbrook has yet to pay off, the 9 time All Star is shooting a career low 37% from the field.

One player that they’ll hope to see more improvement from as well is rookie Deni Avdija, who has shown sparks that show his high ceiling as his career progresses. He’s a name to lookout for for both fans and fantasy basketball players out there.

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