Knicks Draft Guide: What Deni Avdija Would Bring to New York
Deni Avdija is a good passer in the pick and roll. He's a good passer in drive and kick situations as well. He's an intelligent cutter who Frank Ntilikina, RJ Barrett, or maybe even someone like Chris Paul would have a great time flashing passes to as he slices his way through to the paint. Deni Avdija can finish at the rim due to his fairly natural touch. He can shoot the ball, even if not at at a level where you can sure an open shot will find the net. On defense, I certainly don't project him to be the anchor on that end of the court for whichever team drafts him. However, I also don't see him being a turnstile. Avdija will be the kind of defender that isn't at fault for most of the buckets given up, but also not responsible for most impressive stops.
Deni Avdija is not super good at any one thing; but he's really good at a lot of different things. This brings up the classic figure of speech, "jack of all trades, master of none". Many a time players who can do a little bit of everything but not too much of anything exit the league just as quickly as they entered it simply due to the fact that they lack a skill that they can perform at a high level. However, I think Avdija might not be positioned to fit this mold - but rather, outperform it.
Avdija should be able to be developed to a point where he's simply good enough at everything, even if not perfect at something, to have a lengthy career in the league. He's seen by teams as one of the safer picks in the lottery because of his tools, versatility, and international experience - all of which are factors that give prospects high floors.
Avdija's ceiling, however, is perceived to be low; his lack of an elite skill gives scouts and executives cause for concern. If he can improve his shooting (something said about many prospects; Avdija, at least, has a working form going into the league) and get in the weight room (another issue of many prospects that can be fixed with a few years in the NBA), Avdija can quickly become a player that teams are confident having in with any style of lineup due to his ability to do a bit of everything. If I had to compare the impact that I think Avdija could have in his prime on his team to a current NBA player, it would probably be something like what Gordon Hayward did for the Celtics this year. Hayward may be on a stacked team, but he was still able to score 17.3 points per game, as well as pull down 6.5 rebounds and dish out 4.1 assists. These numbers, as well as the 50.2% shooting percentage Hayward had on average, are fairly similar to what I would expect a seasoned version of Deni Avdija to contribute to his team.
Avdija, if developed correctly, projects to be a tertiary playmaking option on a good team who goes out and plays on the wing or as a stretch four. If drafted by the Knicks, he would be able to share some ball-handling responsibilities with RJ Barrett, who is not exactly prepared to be a primary playmaker, and run P&Rs with constant lob-threat Mitchell Robinson. The Knicks would be able to play Avdija in any kind of lineup, but I would like to see them use whoever they have at point guard as a floor-stretcher and ball-handler, Barrett and Avdija as the primary playmakers, have a stretch four on the floor to help maintain good spacing, and put Mitchell Robinson down low. Drafting Avdija could lead to point-forward style numbers for RJ and Deni, allow Robinson to establish himself as a franchise big-man, and enable the team to get players like Ntilikina and Knox involved with Avdija due to his compatibility with different kinds of lineups.
My draft philosophy for this year's lottery pick remains that we should select the best player available. I see Avdija as being in the top five of this year's class, so I assume Avdija will be the best player available anywhere from the fourth to maybe the seventh pick. If the Knicks land a pick in that range, and Avdija is the best guy available when they're on the clock, he would be a great addition to Leon Rose's team in NY.