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2020 NBA Draft: Part 2 of our roundtable on Deni Avdija coming to the Wizards

Our discussion on the Wizards’ first round draft selection continues ... with some words from an old friend!

FC Barcelona v Maccabi Fox Tel Aviv - Turkish Airlines EuroLeague
Deni Avdija grabs a rebound in a match vs. FC Barcelona in the 2019-20 Turkish Airlines EuroLeague.
Photo by Rodolfo Molina/Euroleague Basketball via Getty Images

Hi all, if you haven’t read Part 1 of our roundtable on Deni Avdija coming to the Wizards, click here.

Here’s Part 2!

Matt Modderno: If James Wiseman wasn’t still on the board at two, Golden State was reported to really like Avdija. If Chicago didn’t magically fall in love with Patrick Williams in the last week, they were apparently really into Avdija. He was considered such a lock to go top five that I didn’t even list him as an option for Washington at nin in my draft guide. So this isn’t like Sheppard reached on someone and went against the consensus. Almost the entire league would have had Avdija at the top of their board if they were the one’s picking at nine.

This isn’t a case of “oh, well, Tommy only loves international guys.” He said he would go best available and he did. We can have serious discussions about the fit (and if Scott Brooks is going to effectively manage the potential roster combos) but the Wizards needed talent and Avdija is talented. Bradley Beal and Otto Porter had underwhelming shooting mechanics prior to their NBA careers and ended up shooting it pretty well.

Avdija shot markedly better from the three point line once European play resumed play this spring. His shot looked noticeably smoother and the results backed that up. I have a good deal of confidence the Wizards can help him improve in that area and he will be a good enough shooter to maximize his other talents. Personally, I’m excited and encouraged. And as a lifelong Wizards fan, I’m almost never excited or encouraged, let alone both.

Kevin Broom: A quibble: Beal had great shooting mechanics at Florida but shot a fairly low percentage from three in the NCAA. But Beal also shot 77% from the free throw line.

Porter’s mechanics were somewhat unorthodox but the results were excellent — 42% from three and 78% from the free throw line. There was little question that Porter would be a good shooter in the NBA, and there were ample reasons to think Beal would be a good shooter too.

Avdija’s mechanics look okay, but he didn’t shoot well from three-point range and his atrocious free throw shooting is cause for concern about how much he can improve. Bright side: the Wizards have actually done a pretty good job helping players improve their shooting. That’s the unlock code for the rest of his game, I think.

I’ve seen people mention Luka Doncic, Danilo Gallinari and Dario Saric in relation to Avdija. It’s worth pointing out that all three shot better than Avdija from three and way better from the free throw line before being drafted. The poor free throw shooting makes it reasonable to have concerns about his ability to shoot in the NBA.

Mike Prada: I haven’t watched much but the little I’ve seen and the reports from smarter people have me excited.

I don’t see the Vesely comparison at all. Avdija is more skilled, and he played a much bigger role on a much stronger team in a much stronger league. The Israeli league is pretty solid and he won MVP there, the youngest ever as Greydy mentioned earlier in this discussion. He also dominated the FIBA U-20 tournament. That’s pretty wild.

Deni’s accomplishments aren’t at Luka Doncic levels, but they’re much closer to his pedigree at a similar age than to Jan’s. Just kinda baffled that the Bulls took Florida State’s sixth man, Patrick Williams over him.

Shot form is choppy but seems workable. Handle needs to improve, especially going left, but I doubt he’s a primary creator anyway. Can’t teach his vision and court sense, which is key in the modern NBA.

Deni’s fit with Rui is a bit iffy (on defense especially), but I think that says more about Rui than Deni, and the draft is not the place to pick for need. People I know compare him to a more fluid Dario Saric or a Mirotic with passing instead of shooting. I get some Turkoglu vibes. Probably somewhere in between.

I dunno man, but I’m excited!

Albert: Hey Mike! Glad to read your input!

To all of our readers, if you haven’t read Bullets Forever since ... 2006, Mike Prada is the founder and the first manager of this site. He’s a legend in the Wizards’ blogosphere!

You can also read all of Mike’s previous work on BF by clicking here.

Carry on!

Osman Baig: I’m where Matt was regarding Deni. I paid close attention for months, especially after the Israeli League restart this summer but once the Wizards landed where they did in the lottery I just assumed he was out of the equation here.

I like his game and the growth he showed after the restart. He’s a work in progress like any 19-20 year old but I was listening to Sam Vecenie of the Athletic on Wizards After Dark and he said (I’m assuming relative to players outside of the top three) that Okoro, Okongwu, and Deni were three guys who wouldn’t have a problem getting on the court right away and putting into a winning situation.

He didn’t spend much time on Deni because like most, he didn’t think he was an option at nine but he said he knows where to be on the court. I think in time, we’re looking at a secondary ball handler who can play multiple frontcourt positions and fits well next to Rui who is more the scorer.

I also love his team defense and that he defends with his length and goes vertical rather than fouling. The shooting has to continue to improve. The growth from the summer has to continue. The comparison on Twitter was being made to Troy Brown and a redundancy there, but I see a more downhill player and 6’10 vs 6’6 which in and of itself is a big difference.

Given he can potentially get on the court in a “winning situation” today, I don’t think his pick is problematic with the team picking a lane, Ben. Before the draft I felt Okonwgu would be a similar help now, help later type that fits this tightrope Sheppard is trying to walk. Where I agree with you completely and in my opinion the bigger issue is the Wizards now added two more young players to a group that already included Troy Brown, Rui Hachimura, Thomas Bryant, Jerome Robinson, Moritz Wagner, Isaac Bonga, Admiral Schofield, Garrison Matthews, and Pasecniks.

That’s 11 players including the two picks yesterday. They can’t have a winning situation which that much youth on the roster. This is a roster that needs to be taught how to play — they’re not ready to win yet. Tommy has to decide who he wants to invest in as their young core and then make the rest expendable and consolidate.

Having all 11 on the roster is picking a lane that flows counter to Beal’s lane. They desperately need to make some moves to add young veterans, in particular a rim defending five to complement Bryant and a 3 & D.

Matt: Minor quibble with your quibble Kevin! There were a lot of questions about Porter’s three point shooting coming in. His freshmen percentages were bad and his sophomore percentages were based on pretty low volume and wonky mechanics. He was a much more proficient mid-range shooter.

This was the main punchline in his DraftExpress scouting report, “It will be interesting to see how he’s able to translate his stroke to the deeper NBA 3-point line, as he will likely need to alter his mechanics even further from his current bunny-hop jump-shooting style as he expands his range.”

My overall point was the same though, the Wizards staff does a better job than we give them credit for in helping develop shooting. Ryan Richman told us a story about how every day after practice he and Rasual Butler worked with Otto Porter to correct his shooting. They went from solid shooting prospects to strong shooters. That gives me confidence the Wizards can help Avdija go from a questionable shooter to at least a solid one.

Kevin: A clarification on your quibble with my quibble, Matt lol. In my pre-draft analysis, I had no reason to doubt that Porter would be a good shooter in the NBA. He shot a high percentage on 102 attempts (relatively low volume) in his sophomore year and was a career 36 percent shooter from long range at Georgetown. His free throw shooting was good, and he improved from three-point range and the free throw line from freshman to sophomore season.

With Avdija, the 58.8 percent free throw shooting this season, which is a modest improvement on his career percentage, provides good reason to worry about his shooting ability. That said, the Wizards do have a record of helping players improve their shooting. There’s hope, but there’s also reason for some concern.