Tying a bow on a campaign for the ages

Reviewing all the awards and best moments as Mac TA’s Avdija earns MVP, Zoos top defender

MACCABI TEL AVIV swingman Deni Avdija poses with the trophy after being voted the Most Valuable Player of the Israel basketball Winner League for the 2019/20 season. The 19-year-old is expected to be a lottery pick in October’s NBA Draft.  (photo credit: DOV HALICKMAN PHOTOGRAPHY)
MACCABI TEL AVIV swingman Deni Avdija poses with the trophy after being voted the Most Valuable Player of the Israel basketball Winner League for the 2019/20 season. The 19-year-old is expected to be a lottery pick in October’s NBA Draft.
With the Israel Basketball Winner League season finally coming to an end last week, it’s time to look back at some of the best of the best from what was definitely an interesting and unique campaign. With the 2019/20 season being split into two halves, pre- and post-coronavirus, there were certainly plenty of highlights littered throughout the league.
The Most Valuable Player – as voted by the media – was Deni Avdija of Maccabi Tel Aviv, and there are no arguments with this choice. The 2020 NBA Draft lottery prospect was consistent throughout the season averaging 13.5 points, 6.1 rebounds and 2.6 assists and in over 27 minutes per game, helping the yellow-and-blue to the league title.
However, if we look at the season in two parts, the MVP before the break would be Hapoel Jerusalem guard J’Covan Brown, who notched 15.4 points and 5.9 assists a game prior to the March stoppage. The post-corona MVP would be Iftach Ziv, who raised his level of play to help Hapoel Gilboa/Galil advance to the semifinals against Maccabi Tel Aviv, averaging 14.5 points and 4.8 assists in 12 games.
The Starting Five of the Year selected were Avdija, Brown, Scottie Wilbekin from Maccabi Tel Aviv, Maccabi Rishon Lezion’s Alex Hamilton and Tomer Ginat from Hapoel Tel Aviv. The Jerusalem Post’s five would have included Marcus Foster of Hapoel Holon and James Young from Maccabi Haifa – both of who led their teams prior to the break – instead of the aforementioned Wilbekin and Ginat. However, no issue can be made about the latter pair as they both played the entire season.
The Defensive Player of the Year went to Yovel Zoosman of Maccabi Tel Aviv and it’s very hard to argue against that choice. “Zoos” is a lockdown defender who makes the lives of any offensive player from the opposing team difficult, dogging them the full length of the court.
However, the Post voted for Maccabi Tel Aviv center Othello Hunter as the defensive player due to his massive presence in the paint forcing the opposition to change their shots or kick the ball out for an outside shot.
Suleiman Braimoh of Hapoel Jerusalem was voted by the league as the 6th Man of the Year with averages of 12.3 points and 5.2 rebounds in yet another extremely productive season for the Nigerian-American 30-year-old forward.
The Post selected Tyler Dorsey of Maccabi Tel Aviv for the award as the guard was a spark plug coming off the bench for the champions with 12.2 points, 4.2 rebounds and 3.2 assists a contest. In the playoffs, Dorsey raised his game bumping up his scoring average to 15.8 points and led Maccabi to a massive Game 3 win over Hapoel Tel Aviv with 26 points, 9 rebounds and 7 assists to send the yellow-and-blue into the Final Four.
The Most Improved Player went to Yam Madar of Hapoel Tel Aviv, who averaged an impressive 9.3 points and 3.2 assists. Once again the Post went a different way and took forward Roman Sorkin from Maccabi Haifa, who averaged 10.8 points and 4.7 rebounds per game for the Greens in a showing that has raised the interest of Maccabi Tel Aviv in his services for the upcoming campaign.
Noam Dovrat of Maccabi Rishon Lezion was the unanimous Rookie of the Year pick with 5.5 points a game in 28 contests. Dovrat, who just turned 18 years old, is already being scouted by teams from the NBA and has a fabulous future ahead of him.
The Coach of the Year was Maccabi Tel Aviv’s Ioannis Sfairopoulos, who overcame many injuries to his squad throughout the campaign. But the Post’s pick went to Hapoel Gilboa/Galil’s bench boss Lior Lubin, who was able to take his team to within three points of the finals while also rebuilding his team after the break by bringing in three brand new import players.
Lubin’s team was consistent throughout the entire year while also promoting many young Israelis and giving them valuable playing time in the Galilee without missing a beat.
There were also plenty of great games this past season, but three games in particular stood out over the course of the campaign.
The first was the semifinal matchup between Maccabi Rishon Lezion and Hapoel Jerusalem that saw Adam Ariel nail a last second off-balance three-pointer to send the wine city squad to the final with a 100-97 win. But it wasn’t just the last shot that made the game special, it was the entire 40 minutes that saw Rishon race out to a big lead, but allowed the Reds to claw back and take the lead with a 41-point third quarter.
However, Ariel’s triple will be what sticks in everyone’s minds and it marked the end of an era for Jerusalem as swingman James Feldeine departed the club after two successful seasons.
Maccabi Tel Aviv traveled up north to Gan Ner on Hannukah to face Hapoel Gilboa/Galil without many of its regular players. The hosts took advantage of the situation and played the yellow-and-blue toe-to-toe in a game that saw Wilbekin go coast-to-coast to score the tying lay-up with no time left on the clock in the fourth quarter to send the game into overtime. That led to Edgar Sosa hitting a three-pointer at the end of the first extra session to add another five minutes as Maccabi finally outlasted Gilboa/Galil 112-110.
Finally, the third-best game of the campaign took place on a Friday afternoon just before the break in Holon as Hapoel Jerusalem and host Hapoel Holon put on a show for the ages. Foster, TJ Cline and Joe Alexander couldn’t miss a shot, while Brown, Feldeine and Braimoh  matched Holon point-for-point as the Reds were able to stave off Holon 115-112 in a game that will go down into the annals of Israeli basketball lore.