There’s just not much positive to say about Deni Avdija’s rookie season. It was rough. Like, replacement level, among the league’s 10-12 least productive forwards last season rough. Like, offensive efficiency that was 9 points per 100 possessions worse than league average despite a usage rate of just 11.6%.
Like, he was sold as a playmaking forward yet averaged fewer assists per 100 team possessions than Tristan Thompson (among many others).
Like, his only teammates with fewer assists per 100 possessions and at least 500 minutes played were Rui Hachimura, Robin Lopez, Davis Bertans and Garrison Mathews. Alex Len tied Avdija at 2.3 assists per 100 team possessions.
Avdija did rebound decently (9.7 boards per 100 team possessions). At times he looked competent defensively, but he undid many of the positives with excessive fouling (5.2 per 100 team possessions — league average was 3.9).
If he works hard on his body and his skills, he has a chance to become a competent NBA player. The Statistical Doppelgänger Machine is more pessimistic than the typical fan, though. Players with similar production at a similar age typically did not go on to become good players.
Reminder: The Statistical Doppelgänger Machine works by comparing a player’s performance across 14 different categories that include age, playing time, pace-neutral box score stats and scores from my PPA metric. All that’s rolled up into a single score that (in theory) provides a list of NBA players since 1977-78 with similar production at a similar age.
- Dragan Bender, Phoenix Suns, 2017-18 — The pre-draft scouting suggested Bender was a multi-skilled player who would perform well at either forward spot and even center. He was overwhelmed in the NBA and never produced significantly better than replacement level. In 2019-20, he got a couple 10-day contracts, and he’s now playing overseas again.
- Chandler Hutchison, Chicago Bulls, 2018-19 — This was Hutchison’s rookie year, and it was rough. He was hurt and unproductive the following season. Last season, he got traded to the Wizards and he was bad in Washington too.
- Terrance Ferguson, Oklahoma City Thunder, 2018-19 — Ferguson’s been in the league four seasons and has yet to crack replacement level.
- Chris Singleton, Washington Wizards, 2011-12 — Ugh. This was Singleton’s rookie year. He had a PPA 56 — slightly above replacement level...and then he got worse.
- Dragan Bender, Phoenix Suns, 2018-19 — A 56 PPA, the best mark of his career.
- Luguentz Dort, Oklahoma City Thunder, 2019-20 — This probably isn’t as encouraging a comp as many think. Dort plays hard on defense, but his effectiveness gets overstated. On offense, his efficiency was poor as a rookie and got much worse last season when his usage climbed past 20%.
- Casey Jacobsen, Phoenix Suns, 2003-04 — My memory says there’s a story somewhere about Jacobsen getting inducted into the Jewish Sports Hall of Fame despite him not being Jewish. A quick google didn’t find it. His NBA career was also quick — he was out of the league after three seasons and returned for a season three years later. He never got much better than replacement level.
- Ryan Kelly, Los Angeles Lakers, 2014-15 — Lasted four seasons, the best of which was a PPA 79 in his rookie year. This was the first of his three replacement level seasons.
- Hollis Thompson, Philadelphia 76ers, 2013-14 — A key member of The Process Sixers. This was Thompson’s rookie year, a 69 PPA (Avdija’s was 48. Replacement level is 45.). He followed it up with a 71 and then two more replacement level seasons before he was out of the league.
- Dorian Finney-Smith, Dallas Mavericks, 2016-17 — Finally, some hope! Finney-Smith posted a 49 PPA as a rookie (this season), which he followed with an injury-wracked 39. Then he improved — 74, 113, 112 PPA scores — as he learned to shoot threes, play NBA-quality defense and play off Luka Doncic.
None of this should be construed as dismissing the possibility that Avdija could still become a good player. He’s young and seems to have some ability and and a willingness to be coached. That’s true of a lot of prospects, and the difference between contributors and busts is often how hard and smart guys are able to work.
Who’s next through the Statistical Doppelgänger Machine?
This poll is closed