If the San Antonio Spurs end up in the lottery this year they should do everything they can to select Deni Avdija with their pick.
With every accumulating loss, it looks more and more like the San Antonio Spurs will be headed to the draft lottery for the first time in over two decades. If that is the case, the front office may take some time to mourn the snapping of their historic run of consecutive playoff appearances but as soon as that’s over they will get down to the business of making their highest draft pick in quite some time.
With their first pick, the San Antonio Spurs should do everything they can to select Deni Avdija, a 6’9 forward currently playing for Maccabi Tel Aviv. Avdija hasn’t received the hype that James Wiseman has, isn’t as well known as LaMelo Ball, but could be exactly the kind of player that San Antonio needs. The Spurs have had success taking overseas prospects in the past, Avdija could be next.
Outside of DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge, the Spurs are lacking players who can go out and create their own shot. Lonnie Walker could get there but has a ways to go before he’s ready to assume the role of the Spurs closer. Dejounte Murray is a solid all-around guard but hasn’t proven that he can take over games in the most pressurized moments.
Given the opportunity, Avdija could grow into that role. He plays the game with a confident edge that helps him embrace the biggest moments. As an 18-year-old playing with grown men in the Euroleague, Avdija had to be confident playing against guys with ten plus years of professional experience.
On offense, there isn’t much that Avdija can’t do. One of the biggest knocks on his game right now is an inconsistent jump shot but that shouldn’t dissuade the Spurs from taking a chance on him. He’s only hitting on around 30 percent of his three-point attempts but his mechanics are solid. He’s got a lightning-fast release and there aren’t any noticeable hitches or wasted movements in his form. His combination of height with a high and fast release makes it easy to see him getting his shot off over all kinds of defenders.
One of the most exciting things about Avdija is his ability to rebound and push the pace on his own. He’s got a nice handle, especially for a player with his size, and looks very comfortable making plays for others. When the game slows down he can operate in pick and roll situations and use his height and passing ability to pick defenses apart.
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Looking down the road it’s fun to envision a potential Spurs team featuring Avdija, Murray, Walker, Luka Samanic, and Derrick White. There would be tons of potential to play a fast-paced style featuring multiple players capable of initiating the offense. The defense would be an issue but that’s something that Avdija has been improving on in his time with Maccabi.
He’s light on his feet, moves around well, and has shown that he can read opposing players and jump passing lanes accordingly. It doesn’t look like he’s going to be a lockdown defender at any point in his career but he shouldn’t be a liability either.
Physically, Avdija isn’t the most imposing player. He doesn’t have an overly intimidating wingspan and needs to add muscle to his frame. Adding weight will come, the Spurs would surely understand that Avdija would need to spend most of his first year in the league with the Austin Spurs. It’s a development path that the team is more than familiar with.
There are other players available who would be able to help the Spurs right away but that’s not what they need at this point. Making the playoffs right away can’t be the goal for this team, they need to find another star to help carry them into the future. If that means missing out on the playoffs while waiting for young guys to develop then so be it.
It looks like the San Antonio Spurs will be heading to the lottery for the first time in over two decades. If that is the case they must take advantage of the opportunity and hit a home run, grabbing a player like Avdija would be exactly that.