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NBA Daily: Deni Avdija Flashing Skill, Poise As 19-Year-Old Rookie

Through six games this season, young Washington Wizards forward Deni Avdija has the confidence and versatility needed to be a star.

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The Washington Wizards’ 1-5 start to the season has clearly been a rocky one – an early journey with several close heartbreakers and blown leads along the way. While frustrations have been mounting in D.C., Deni Avdija is seeing this stretch as a growing opportunity, one that paid off after the team’s first win against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday, Jan. 1.

“I learned that everybody needs to be patient,” Avdija said. “Fans need to be patient, players need to be patient, everybody needs to be patient. We’re great players, if you sit in our locker room and look around, we have great talent. But sometimes it takes time to figure things out, we got a new superstar in and I’m new to the team, I’m new to the system, it takes time for everybody.”

Avdija is one of the youngest players in the NBA, turning 20 tomorrow, Jan. 3, and yet all of his teammates, including superstars Russell Westbrook and Bradley Beal, can’t stop talking about his maturity and poise.

“He’s constantly learning,” Beal said. “It’s so funny because before he got here they told us he’s a man of a million questions, like Deni asks a lot of questions. And that’s a great thing because he just wants to learn, he wants to get better, he wants to be on the floor. And it’s amazing to see how poised he is on the floor, he doesn’t really get fed up, he doesn’t get bothered by anything.”

Despite being a young rookie, Avdija started in all six games that Washington has played thus far. Against Minnesota, Avdija recorded his first double-digit game, scoring 11 points to go along with nine rebounds, four assists, three steals and a block, shooting 60 percent from deep.

This versatility is what caused Washington to select Avdija with the ninth overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, he’s a guy that every contender wishes they had.

“I like the fact that he knows how to play and he looks for his teammates,” head coach Scott Brooks said after the win over Minnesota. “He’s not trying to fill the last category on the stat sheet, he’s looking to make plays, he wants to rebound, he wants to pass, sets good screens. I thought he made a nice drive with his left hand, that’s something we’ve been working on, where he made the pass to Thomas Bryant for the alley-oop.”

Avdija joined Maccabi Tel Aviv’s youth team at just 12 years old and joined the professional club when he was only 16. His experiences overseas have left strong impressions on his veteran teammates, which allows him to flash such great and infectious confidence to his team.

“He just does what Deni does,” Beal said. “He doesn’t do anything extra, he just plays basketball the right way, he uses his body well. It’s amazing for a rookie, he has great professional attributes, he’s been playing since he was 12 probably.”

Too often in the NBA, fans and teams alike see young players consumed by the limelight, and those players tend to chase stats instead wins and tend to peter out over time. Avdija is the antithesis of this – often making plays like a pro and going for winning moves over statistics.

“In order to maximize our potential, everybody’s going to have to participate,” Brooks said. “We don’t want all the ball handling, all the playmaking and all the shooting in Russell and Brad’s hands, it’s a work in progress, trust me. It’s something we’re gonna continue to talk about and build . . . I think Deni has the capability, I mean, he’s 19 years old, I love him, I love how he competes, I love how he wants to get better, I love the questions that he’s asking me, it’s always about the right things.”

So far this season, Avdija is averaging 7.8 points, 5.2 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.3 steals compared to just .7 turnovers in 26.2 minutes per game. When Avdija is on the floor, the Wizards boast a 129 offensive rating compared to a 111 defensive rating.

In the first week of the NBA, so much noise is being generated about the passing prowess of rookies like LaMelo Ball and Killian Hayes, but Avdija is dishing as well as one could ask. Avdija excels at making competent passes to his teammates that might not be the flashiest but still set up his teammates in the best ways possible.

“I love playmaking, I love making plays for my teammates,” Avdija said after the win over Minnesota. “I love getting my teammates involved, I’m looking for them at every opportunity. It makes me feel good, it makes the whole team feel good, I’ll find them every time. So for me, I took a big step today, I had some playmaking plays . . . it’s gonna come through time.”

In one of the best plays of the Wizards’ season, Avdija set up the equally-impressive youngster Thomas Bryant on an alley-oop. Avdija excels in the art of a bounce pass that allows his teammates to slip past defenders to the basket.

Avdija has also excelled as a shooter, something that was a question mark about his game heading into the draft and the season. His form could use some work but there’s no denying the raw skill and the result that he’s showing so far. Currently, Avdija is shooting 47.6 percent from deep on just under four attempts per game, one of the leaders on the team in that regard.

“There are times where [Avdija] asks questions because the game is going a little fast for him,” Beal said. “But for the most part, I think he’s going above and beyond what we expected him to be. He’s showing glimpses of his versatility, he’s an excellent three-point shooter, he probably has the highest percentage on our team right now.”

Despite losing five straight to begin the year, Washington is offering reasons for excitement, having led the Philadelphia 76ers for much of the first game of the season and scoring 130 points in back-to-back games.

“You can’t expect magic to happen right away,” Avdija said. “‘Okay, we’re booming, we’re 7-0.’ No, it’s gonna happen, we’re gonna lose games. But eventually, how we turn it into a team, that’s the most important thing for me and that’s why I smiled to the team and everybody was positive about it. Of course, we were frustrated and angry but at the end of the day we know ourselves, we know we’re good.”

Avdija, Bryant, Rui Hachimura and Troy Brown Jr. make up the Wizards’ young corps and this season is about the perfect blend of learning and being competitive, the latter of which Avdija believes will come with time.

Through six games, Avdija has already established himself as a young leader and poster child for a winning mentality in the locker room. By talking to Brooks and Beal, and seeing just how high on Avdija the entire franchise is, it’s evident why the Wizards selected him ninth overall.

“I’m super positive about this team,” Avdija said. “Mark my words, we’re gonna be good. We just need to figure things out, play hard, play defense. When we play simple and we play defense, we’re playing very good. I’m all about positive for this team.”

My name is Tristan Tucker and I am a basketball writer currently enrolled at North Carolina State University. I am the school paper's assistant sports editor and have written for SB Nation and Fansided. I joined Basketball Insiders in December of 2020.

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2021 NBA Draft Top 3 Picks & Top 10 First-Round Selection Odds

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The 2021 NBA Draft is scheduled for Thursday, July 29. The draft will begin at 8:00 p.m. (EST) on ESPN platforms at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, and it is the first time the draft is being televised on both ABC and ESPN. Free agency will also begin on Monday, Aug. 2 at 6:00 p.m. (EST). For NBA Draft betting, there are several available apps for placing bets, like from Bovada, MyBookie, Intertops, BetUS, BetOnline, BetNow, 5Dimes, and Sportsbetting.ag. DraftKings and FanDuel are other feasible options, in addition to the sites listed above.

Anyways, the Detroit Pistons have the first overall pick of the draft, followed by the Houston Rockets, Cleveland Cavaliers, Toronto Raptors, Orlando Magic, etc. Oklahoma State’s Cade Cunningham is the projected first overall pick. Jalen Green, the six-foot-five NBA G League player who forwent college basketball and attended San Joaquin Memorial High School, is expected to get drafted by the Pistons. The Pac-12 Player of the Year (2021) and Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year (2021) winner, Evan Mobley, is projected to get picked by the Cleveland Cavaliers.

However, teams have been negotiating trades with one another, leading up to next week’s draft. Per Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer, the Orlando Magic and Toronto Raptors are expressing interest in trading with the Cleveland Cavaliers in order to move up to the No. 3 spot of the draft. In the second round, the Milwaukee Bucks have the 31st pick of the draft. There is a chance that these are just meaningless internal discussions, existing only to explore the values of specific players and to keep other general managers on their heels.

No. 1 Pick Odds

While Cade Cunningham has the best odds (-8000) of being selected first overall, there are a few other aforementioned players here that are at the top of the list, too. Jalen Green has +1500 odds, Evan Mobley has +2200 odds, and Jalen Suggs possesses +2500 odds. Needless to say, however, Cunningham will be selected first before everyone else. Here’s why. According to 247Sports, the six-foot-eight Big 12 Player of the Year (2021) and Consensus first-team All-American (2021) ranked No. 1 in the final rankings class of 2020. Heading into college, the native Texan was already an established top-ranked, talented recruit.

Green and Mobley were also highly touted stars coming out of high school, but hands down, Cunningham has the best résumé for NBA scouts and general managers. In 27 games played for the Oklahoma State Cowboys’ 2020-21 season, Cunningham averaged 20.1 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 3.5 assists, helping to lead his team to the Big 12 Tournament and NCAA Tournament. The Cowboys lost 91-81 against the No. 3 Texas Longhorns in the Big 12 Tournament, and then the team lost 80-70 versus the No. 12 Oregon State Beavers in the NCAA Tournament. The Detroit Pistons need all the help they can get.

  • All table odds were retrieved from Bovada 

No. 2 Pick Odds

Jalen Green has the favored odds (-200) of being selected second overall in the 2021 draft, followed by Evan Mobley (+170), Jalen Suggs (+650), and Jonathan Kuminga (+2200). Regarding Green’s G League performance, in 15 games started, he averaged 17.9 points, 4.1 rebounds, 2.8 assists, and 1.5 steals per game. The 19-year-old also played for an average of 32 minutes per game. Despite oddsmakers projecting the highest possible odds for Cunningham’s No. 1 selection, the No. 2 pick is not as clear.

In 33 games played for the USC Trojans, Evan Mobley averaged 16.4 points, 8.7 rebounds, and 2.4 assists per game. Referencing the RSCI Top 100 rankings, the seven-foot tall forward/center was ranked third on the list. Below .500 NBA teams, such as the Magic and Raptors, could trade up to draft the big man. It all depends on the teams’ different needs and priorities.

 

No. 3 Pick Odds

Evan Mobley has the best odds (-200) of getting drafted third overall. In the 2020-21 USC Trojans’ season, they lost 72-70 in the Pac-12 Tournament against the No. 23 Colorado Buffaloes. Then, they proceeded to lose 85-66 in the NCAA tournament versus the No. 1 Gonzaga Bulldogs. Mobley had a team-high of 19 points and seven rebounds in that Elite Eight loss.

Though, if Jalen Green is still on the board at this point, it would not be out-of-the-blue if he was selected third ahead of Mobley, considering his odds are +150. For the other odds, Jalen Suggs is next (+250), followed by Jonathan Kuminga (+900), Scottie Barnes (+1200), Davion Mitchell (+6600), and Josh Giddey (+6600).

“To Be Drafted in the Top 10” Odds

With all eyes on the top three picks of the 2021 NBA Draft, there might be some folks speculating if players like Kai Jones and Josh Giddey have reasonable odds of at least making the top 10 in the draft. Jones’ odds are +275, whereas Giddey’s odds are +135. UConn shooting guard James Bouknight has -250 odds. Six-foot-nine, 19-year-old German basketball star Franz Wagner has -150 odds of being selected somewhere in the top 10 overall. Moreover, Jonathan Kuminga’s odds are -10000. The 18-year-old G League player is projected to land sixth in the draft.

Plus, according to several mock drafts, Davion Mitchell is expected to be picked by either the Golden States Warriors (seventh) or New Orleans Pelicans (tenth). His odds are -300. Keon Johnson is another one. Per NBA.com’s mock drafts, K. Johnson is projected to be taken No. 8 overall by the Orlando Magic, assuming this team does not pursue any potential trades to move up. Additionally, FSU’s Scottie Barnes has -10000 odds of getting selected in the top 10, and some mock draft beat writers also have Barnes going to the Magic.

 

 

Draft betting is much like player prop bets and NBA Finals betting. There are plenty of uncertainties and variables one must consider before placing bets, such as a specific team trading up or down during the night of the draft. Think about all the possible outcomes and scenarios before placing a bet, even if you choose to play it safe.

It is imperative for gamblers to search for any news articles or videos the same day of the draft, in order to keep up to date on important breaking news. Before placing bets on professional basketball, keep in mind that Bovada is the best betting site for NBA-related content and requested wagers.

 

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Raptors, Magic aim to obtain No. 3 pick from Cavaliers in 2021 NBA Draft

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The 2021 NBA Draft is the 75th edition of the draft, and it is scheduled to take place next Thursday, July 29. According to numerous 2021 NBA mock drafts, the Cleveland Cavaliers are projected to draft Evan Mobley, the seven-foot tall forward/center and Pac-12 Player of the Year (2021) for the USC Trojans, with the third overall pick. Referencing NBA.com’s consensus mock drafts, there were six top players who appeared in all twelve of the mocks they surveyed: Cade Cunningham, Jalen Green, Evan Mobley, Jalen Suggs, Scottie Barnes, and Jonathan Kuminga. The Detroit Pistons are expected to take Cunningham with the first overall pick, followed by the Houston Rockets selecting Jalen Green with the second pick of the draft.

While the Toronto Raptors are currently set to pick fourth and the Orlando Magic are expected to pick fifth, per The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor, both teams have made trade offers to the Cavs in order to move up to acquire the third spot. O’Connor stated, “League sources say the Cavaliers have received significant trade interest for this selection, and the Raptors and Magic Orlando—the next two teams up to pick—have made offers to move up. But Cleveland might just stay put.” Now, it is unknown what the Raptors and Magic are prepared to give up. Orlando has the advantage over Toronto, considering they also possess the No. 8 pick.

On Mar. 25, the Magic traded All-Star center Nikola Vucevic and forward Al-Farouq Aminu to the Chicago Bulls, in exchange for Wendell Carter Jr., Otto Porter Jr., and two first-round picks. The two first-round picks were for 2021 and 2023, first reported by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. This is why Orlando has extra leverage over Toronto. Some experts are speculating that Orlando will trade Mohamed Bamba, Gary Harris, and the fifth and eighth picks of the draft. To the fans, that right there sounds like a raw deal.

However, on the flip side, a team like the Raptors are in desperate need of a viable center. Last season, they finished 27-45 (.375), ranking 12th in the Eastern Conference. If not the Magic, the Raptors might be more than willing to give up the same, if not more. Toronto could trade Pascal Siakam and the No. 4 pick. In the previous offseason, a few of the notable departures for the Raptors were Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka.

Both of these aforementioned players played important roles in helping the Raptors to win their first NBA championship in the 2018-19 season. Though, the Raptors would have to make it a top priority to re-sign Kyle Lowry as well. On Oct. 7, 2019, Lowry signed a one-year, $31 million contract with the organization.

Not to mention, the Magic already have Mohamed Bamba, Wendell Carter Jr., and Johnathan Isaac on their roster. Furthermore, after recovering from their injuries, Isaac and Markelle Fultz will be returning to the court this season. Maybe Magic general manager John Hammond is using a trial-and-error approach, hoping to keep the most talented, best center available on the roster. If one throws enough sludge at the wall, eventually something will stick.

Leading up to the draft, basketball enthusiasts can continue to speculate and ask questions, but none of these potential draft moves are carved in stone. The transactions will not occur until the night of the draft, so one person’s educated guess is as good as anyone’s right now. All too often, teams get fleeced every year during the draft because various coaches and general managers either underrate or overestimate a player’s value.

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Injury Update: Hawks’ Onyeka Okongwu out 6 months after shoulder surgery

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After Atlanta Hawks‘ Onyeka Okongwu underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder on Wednesday night, the 20-year-old center will take the next six months off. Okongwu is a 6’8″ two-time California Mr. Basketball (2018, 2019), selected sixth overall in the 2020 NBA Draft. After agreeing to a rookie contract, Atlanta signed him to their roster on November 24, 2020, and he made his NBA debut on January 15, 2021. The signed multi-year contract was worth a guaranteed $11.9 million over the course of two seasons.

According to a report first published by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Dr. Neal ElAttrache operated on Okongwu in Los Angeles, California, and he suffered this shoulder injury earlier in May. He will likely be eligible to play as early as late February 2022. While the typical recovery time for a torn labrum after surgery is between three to six months, labral tears can negatively impact athletes in a sport like basketball, if they are not careful. It will not recover by itself without the proper care.

Yesterday, the Hawks organization released a statement: “Onyeka Okongwu underwent surgery earlier tonight in Los Angeles to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder. Dr. Neal ElAtrrache of Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic performed the surgery. Okongwu will now enter a period of rest and rehabilitation and is expected to make a full recovery in approximately six months.”

In the 2020-21 NBA season, in 50 games played, he averaged 4.6 points and 3.3 rebounds. Over the course of the 2021 postseason, Okongwu played a total of 166 minutes, averaging 9.2 minutes played per game, in eighteen games for the Hawks. He scored five points in the first round series versus the New York Knicks, 19 points in the conference semifinals versus the Philadelphia 76ers, and 24 points in the Eastern Conference Finals series against the Milwaukee Bucks.

In his junior and senior seasons playing for the University of Southern California Trojans, he earned those aforementioned California Mr. Basketball awards. In 28 games played in college, he averaged 16.2 points, 8.6 total rebounds, and 1.1 assists per game. His average field goal shooting percentage in college was also 61.6 percent. He will be turning 21-years-old this December.

Referencing his current contract negotiations via Basketball-Reference, Okongwu earned $5.8 million in this past 2020-21 season. Furthermore, he will earn $6.1 million in the 2021-22 season, $6.3 million in the 2022-23 season, and $8.1 million in the 2023-24 season. The 2022-23 and 2023-24 add-ons are team options.

Moreover, the upcoming free agency will begin on Aug. 1, 2021 and the regular season is scheduled to start on Oct. 19, 2021. For betting purposes, the 2022 NBA Finals will air throughout June 2022. The NBA has transitioned its schedule back to normal format. The league office anticipates that future playoff series will no longer get pushed back to the months of June and July. Similar to everything else, however, this current schedule is subject to change due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

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