In this series we discuss available European draft prospects and free agents.
For part 1 in this series click here.
For part 2 in this series click here.
Part 3 — Point Forwards
There are two international players who can be classified (a bit arbitrarily) as point forwards. This does not mean I’m comparing them to Luka Doncic or LeBron James.
For more than a year, Deni Avdija keeps popping up as the biggest name in this year’s international draft class. CloseUp360 just featured an in-depth Draft Week special on Deni you can read here by yours truly.
The Ringer went as far as ranking him number two overall about a month ago. They have since downgraded him to four. Common comparisons are Dario Saric, Joe Ingles, and potentially Draymond Green. Not bad. Others, view him as no more than a solid rotation player coming off the bench.
One thing is for sure, there’s consensus he has a future in the NBA, whether that’s as a rotation player (the floor), or an All-Star (the ceiling).
In an average draft year, I think there little doubt Avdija would be available at number nine.
Will he be available this year?
Forget about it. As Kevin Broom argued this is indeed a weak draft class at the top.
Should the Wizards trade up to get him?
Depends who you ask, but I don’t think so. Not because Avdija lacks potential, but because the Wizards have so few assets. Trading up to get Avdija most probably would cost them a future first-rounder and the number 9 pick, as well as possibly a young player such as Troy Brown, Jr.
Yet, Deni is a great pick for any team looking a playmaking wing, and I would love to see him here.
His stats in the EuroLeague are solely based on 8 games, where he played 6.5 minutes to go along with 4 points and shooting splits of 41/50/100 (he made 5 out of 10 3-pointers and 2-of-2 FTs), 1.5 rebounds. His 2019-2020 Israeli League stats are more realistic: 27 minutes, 13.5 points, splits of 67/39/58, 6 rebounds, 2.6 assists.
The big knock for Deni is his FT shooting. Critics argue that historically such a poor FT shooter has rarely become a good shooter. I feel Deni’s shot is improving and I know for a fact that he has dramatically improved during the pandemic months as he made that his primary focus.
His secondary knock is his ability to switch 1-4 in the NBA. He has done so reasonably well in Europe, but in the NBA it would be difficult imagining him sizing up against power forwards, as well as against the quicker guards off the dribble. But both of these things can definitely improve, and thanks to his very high basketball IQ I see him fitting in very well in a team that plays a lot of zone, such as Boston or Toronto.
As far the Wizards go, the real question though is whether the Wizards need a player with the skill-set Avdija offers.
I think yes. A potential 3&D player who can be a secondary ball-handler would mesh well with Bradley Beal and John Wall (and Davis Bertans, too, by the way).
This brings us to a much lesser known name, which I’m sure Sheppard knows. He’ll very likely be available late in the draft as a stash prospect:
Krejci is the best international draft prospect you’ve never heard of. He’s without a doubt the top talent in the Czech Republic’s impressive pipeline built by Ronen Ginzburg, the head coach of the Czech National Team for most of the past decade.
Playing for Zaragoza in the Spanish ACB his stat line is 9 minutes, 3.7 points, shooting splits of 61/35/71, to go with 0.7 assists and TOVs, and 1.2 rebounds.
If you ask anybody who’s watched Krejci play, he’s as close as there is to a highlight machine as you can find among under-21 Europeans. He is as impressive as Satoransky was at the same age, and perhaps a bit more, as his skill-set is quite developed. At 6-7 and 185 pounds, he’s a similar in size to Satoransky, albeit a bit quicker. Satoransky’s lack of quickness was a concern for Wizards head coach Scott Brooks.
The big question mark with Krejci is his consistency and work ethic. He’ll need to muscle up and work day-in and day-out to reach an NBA level. Highlights are nice, but can he do the little things that made Sato one of the most reliable point guards the Wizards had in the past decade?
At any rate, things took a nasty twist for Krejci when he suffered a season-ending knee injury while playing for Zaragosa of the Spanish ACB League. He would have been a stash prospect regardless, so the injury doesn’t change his draft prospects much.
Would I draft him? Nowhere before the late 50s. It would be even better to be able to sign him outside of the draft but I’m not sure that it is possible to retain the rights to an un-drafted player in the same way as for a drafted player (perhaps someone can elucidate this point in the comments). Then develop him for a couple years in Spain. Hopefully he matures into a rotation player as Sato did.