Just as the NBA playoffs are heating up, Deni Avdija, Israel’s lone representative landed back in the Holy Land after his sophomore season with the Washington Wizards and ahead of the Israel National Team’s Eurobasket campaign beginning in August.
The Israeli sensation had quite the second year by playing in all 82 games for his team, becoming one of only five players in the league to do so. In 24.2 minutes per game, Avdija scored 8.4 points averaging 43.2% from inside of the arc and 31.7% beyond it while hitting 75.7% of his free throws as well.
The 21-year old also grabbed 5.2 rebounds per game while dishing out two assists to go along with 0.7 steals and 1.1 turnovers as the vast majority of his statistics went up save for the turnovers.
Over his first two seasons with the Wizards, the “Israeli Iron Man” has compiled 1,027 points, 687 rebounds, 230 assists, 91 steals and 59 blocks in 24 minutes over 134 total games, which places him among some interesting company.
In the past 25 years, only five NBA players have reached those numbers in their first 134 games including the reigning league MVP Nikola Jokic, all-time great Tracy McGrady, Bam Adebayo, Kelly Olynk and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson.
There’s no question that if Avdija continues the trend, he will have a very good NBA career ahead of him.
But right now, Avdija is happy to be back in Israel as he will have a chance to take a break from the grueling day-to-day life and schedule of the NBA.
“There’s nothing like being back in Israel,” Avdija began. “This wasn’t a simple season to have gone through, which was very busy and intense. Returning home feels great and I can’t wait to see my family and friends.”
As for Avdija’s schedule coming up, it will be some R&R and then getting back to the grind in order to hone his skills for the 2022/23 campaig.
“I’ll be in Israel for a month, month-and-a-half to allow my body to rest up after the season and then I will start to get to work. I’ll fly back to the United States to begin preparations for the next season.”
Being one of only five players to have played the entire season these days, Advija joined Golden State Warriors’ Kevon Looney, Saddiq Bey of the Detroit Pistons, Dallas Mavericks big man Dwight Powell and Phoenix Suns forward Mikal Bridges.
Clearly, just staying on the court is not an easy and simple feat.
“The fatigue of playing 82 games in a season definitely affected me and there were times when I had no energy,” noted Avdija. “It was a bit tough, but that’s part of sports. I really wanted to be able to do that especially after the injury I had last season. I really enjoyed helping the team win big games and from here I will just continue to work hard.”
During the second half of the season, Avdija had the chance to be the primary ball handler on occasion due to injuries to a number of players, including superstar Bradley Beal. This was a big change from the first half of the campaign when the Israeli was more on the receiving end of the ball.
“In the second half of the season I had the opportunity to play more with the ball in my hands and to create for my teammates.”
Over the course of the offseason, Avdija will work on a number of areas of his game to continue to improve his on-court skills and go into his third season as an even better player.
“There are a lot of things which I can improve. I am aware of that and I am not naive and some of them I will keep to myself. I watch videos of all of my games to see how the team plays and what my role will be for the next season. I believe that many people know what I need to work on in my game play and that I will be able to do things even better as time goes on.”
The Israel National Team have a very busy summer coming up, with World Cup Qualifiers against Estonia and Poland at the end of June and the start of July which will be followed up by two more qualifiers in the second stage at the end of August.
Immediately following that, the blue-and-white will head to the Czech Republic for the Eurobasket European Championship group stage that begins in Prague.
With such a packed summer, it is still unclear which games Avdija will be available for. However, barring any issues, the forward should be set to play in the Eurobasket, but the World Cup qualifiers may be an issue as the NBA, FIBA and the players association will need to come to an agreement as to which games NBA players will be allowed to take part in.
“My goal is to always represent the country and play for the Israel National Team, it’s no less important. I have the right group of people around me to make sure that I also get in my rest and be ready to go for next season.”
Avdija may take on Luka Doncic and Slovenia in qualification, but he will certainly be on the court against NBA MVP Nikola Jokic from Serbia, the country in which he could have also represented due to his father Zufer’s nationality.
“It would be an interesting matchup against Luka, but I don’t get too excited from big names. We won’t make Slovenia’s lives easy on the court. It will in a sense come full circle to play Serbia. Playing against Jokic is always great, we have a good relationship and we respect one another.”
“We have a very talented national team,” Avdija continued. “I can’t wait to see everyone, I missed them. As for the World Cup qualifiers, anything can happen and I don’t yet know as to what may happen due to my schedule. I will see what is best for me. I need to rest after this past season. I believe that I will be able to represent Israel with the National Team. We have to have as good a European Championship as possible and maybe we can make it to the final. If Slovenia was able to do it, anyone can.”