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Israeli Teenager Deni Avdija Drafted By Washington Wizards

Israeli Teenager Deni Avdija Drafted By Washington Wizards

Israeli teenager Deni Avdija was taken by the Washington Wizards with the No. 9 overall pick in the NBA draft Wednesday night, giving them a versatile, playmaking forward with a stilldeveloping game who could be a part of the teams effort to turn things around after missing the playoffs the past two seasons.

WASHINGTON: Deni Avdija became the highest-drafted player from Israel in NBA history by going No. 9 overall to the Washington Wizards on Wednesday night a year after the team made Rui Hachimura the first player from Japan to go in the first round.

We dont check passports when we draft players, Wizards general manager Tommy Sheppard said. We look at talent.

At age 19, the 6-foot-9, 225-pound Avdija is considered a versatile, playmaking forward with a still-developing game. He helped Israel win the FIBA U-20 European Championships in 2018 and 2019, and is a good ballhandler and passer who could profile as a point forward with Washington.

There are questions about his shooting touch and how long it might take for him to adjust to the NBA game.

His shot is not bad, Washington coach Scott Brooks said. It’s going to get better.

Avdija became the youngest player to play for Maccabi Tel Aviv when he began his professional career in 2017.

Now he is the first top-10 NBA draft pick from Israel.

For me just to represent my country and to make history, that’s a blessing, Avdija said from Tel Aviv during a video conference with reporters Wednesday. I have the whole nation behind me. I hope I’m going to represent well.

As for the idea of inspiring young Israelis to pursue basketball, he said: Im just glad they have somebody to look at and learn (from) and just be motivated to see that us being a small country doesnt mean that we cant do big things.

Brooks is entering the last season of his five-year contract and he is counting on making some improvement thanks to the return to action of point guard John Wall, the five-time All-Star who missed most of the 2018-19 season after heel surgery, then all of 2019-20 with a ruptured left Achilles tendon.

Barring a trade, Wall and shooting guard Bradley Beal will be counted on to lead Washington back to relevance after missing the playoffs for the past two years. The Wizards went 1-7 in the coronavirus pandemic bubble to close a 25-47 season, which followed a 50-loss campaign in 2018-19.

Beal finished second in the NBA in scoring this past season by averaging 30.5 points, behind only James Harden.

I’ve got two good leaders in John and Brad coming back,” Brooks said. “We all have a lot to prove myself, John, Brad, Rui. … Everybody on our team has a lot to prove and we got another guy that’s going to want to play with that chip on their shoulder.

Sheppard praised Avdija’s competitive gene and called him a blend player, someone who could fit in with various lineups. Brooks spoke about the players fiery emotion, toughness and IQ.

Washington also held the 37th overall pick in Wednesdays draft, which was Sheppards first as the teams full-fledged GM.

In 2019, when the Wizards selected Hachimura at No. 9 overall, Sheppard still was toting an interim tag following Ernie Grunfelds departure.

Hachimura was a starting forward last season, and is among the young players Washington is figuring will help down the road, along with 2018 first-round pick Troy Brown Jr. and center Thomas Bryant.

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