2020 Orlando Magic Draft Preview: Deni Avdija is the versatile pick at the top of the Draft

Deni Avdija is a jack of all trades forward from Israel. (Photo by TF-Images/Getty Images)
Deni Avdija is a jack of all trades forward from Israel. (Photo by TF-Images/Getty Images) /

Deni Avdija’s playmaking and dynamic scoring could be what the Orlando Magic are looking for on the wing even if it comes at a heavy price to acquire him.

The Orlando Magic have a need for playmaking. Markelle Fultz is a solid point guard option who the team hopes can grow. But outside of him, the Magic have few players who can create for themselves and others off the dribble.

They will be in need a dynamic secondary playmaker in the next few years if they do not manage to sign a replacement point guard. Finding one though is exceedingly difficult. Just as it has been difficult for the Magic to find the star to tie their whole roster together.

The Magic will most likely miss out on LaMelo Ball or Killian Hayes and with D.J. Augustin entering free agency and Markelle Fultz still finding his footing. That leaves few options for the Magic to fill this role that fit the Magic’s eye.

To get the truly elite players will require the Magic to trade up. And while there has been plenty of focus on the presumed top-3 of LaMelo Ball, Anthony Edwards and James Wiseman. The guy who fits the role the Magic need might be found elsewhere.

Israel’s Deni Avdija could be the supplemental playmaker and versatile scorer the Magic need to complete their roster. He could be the sleeper player Orlando looks to trade up to acquire.

The chatter surrounding the 19-year-old has increased in the past few weeks especially after the Golden State Warriors spoke highly of him after a pre-draft workout. Avdija offers an opportunistic play style that is flexible and team-friendly. This alone makes Avdija a tantalizing prospect.

But Avdija does have several weaknesses, one of them being his defense.

It is not Avdija’s 6-foot-9, 215-pound frame that should concern teams. It is his lack of athleticism and burst. While he has made up for the lack of athleticism with skill and finesse on the offensive end, this could pose an issue on the defensive end, especially in the NBA.

Avdija played in the Israeli Basketball Premier League last season for Maccabi Tel Aviv. They are an Israeli power and have produced plenty of NBA players. But Avdija does not always have the look of an NBA player.

The young wing was average defensively and lacks the explosion and athleticism many top NBA prospects have. In the context of the NBA, where wings and guards are faster, strong and more talented, Avdija will almost certainly be targeted.

Orlando Magic
Orlando Magic /

Orlando Magic

While the young prospect could struggle to provide any defensive value out of the gate, the Magic are one of the best places for him to land.

During the 2020 season, the Magic were tied for 10th in defensive rating, giving up 107.1 points per 100 possessions. Coach Steve Clifford has done a good job creating a defensive foundation, creating a scheme that puts players in the right spots.

Of the 14 teams ahead of the Magic in the draft, only the Boston Celtics have a higher ranked defensive efficiency with 104.5 points allowed per 100 possessions. The rest of the teams are ranked in the bottom half of the league.

The Magic are a competent defensive team as shown in the regular season. Hiding Avdija’s flaws on defense should not hinder the Magic’s schemes significantly.

While the 19-year-old’s defense is raw in some areas, his offense is quite mature.

Avdija has shown a knack for making reads in the half-court but also in a full-court setting. His ability to assess the open floor in a matter of seconds and lead his teammates into a layup on the fast break was one of Avdija’s strengths during the season.

He is also a capable scorer from any part of the floor as he has fluid shot mechanics and is willing to absorb contact on drives to the basket. Avdija averaged 12.3 points, 5.9 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game in 27 minutes per game. He is agile in the half-court and has good footwork which has also translated into his playmaking in the paint.

While his stats do not show he is a volume passer, he often makes the right plays and is unselfish with the ball.

Overall, teams should not be too worried about Avdija’s playmaking and scoring especially since he will most likely get stronger and faster after his first year in the league.

The combination of scoring and passing should help the Magic’s sometimes stagnant offense. Without a capable playmaker, especially on the second unit, the Magic ranked 18th in assists and had the 16th-worst point differential in the 2020 season.

As mentioned previously, Avdija’s knack for playmaking opens up new opportunities for his teammates. Right now, the Magic’s roster is only a few pieces away, but with their current personnel, Avdija could thrive in their offensive system.

Players like Terrence Ross, Jonathan Isaac and Nikola Vucevic could benefit from Avdija’s playmaking. Whether Avdija is making passes from the post to a waiting Vucevic, setting up Isaac for a cut or kicking out to Ross, Avdija will provide some much-needed playmaking.

It is clear that in order to make the next step to the top half of the Eastern Conference, the Magic need to improve their offense. While Avdija will not be an immediate answer, he could provide grow into a solid bench contributor and perhaps even a starter.

Naturally, Advija will make plenty of mistakes along the way, especially as a playmaker.

Besides the fact he is only 19 and has already received comparisons to Luka Doncic he still has some ways to go. Expect turnovers, offensive blunders and botched plays from the young rookie as he will experience what most rookies experience.

Avdija is one of the top prospects in this Draft. His all-around game will make him a valuable player for whoever ends up drafting him. The Magic will have to trade up into the top-5 most likely to take him. It will cost a lot to get him and might leave a crowded forward spot with Chuma Okeke and eventually Jonathan Isaac on the depth chart.

Next. NBA Draft Preview: Tyrese Maxey rises to the occasion. dark

Avdija is not meant to make an immediate impact. He is a moldable prospect that if developed correctly, could be an excellent supplemental piece in the next five years. By then, hopefully the Magic are competing for the Eastern Conference title and the NBA Finals.