EMPIRE OF THE SUNS

ESPN mock has Suns drafting 5th in 2020, taking wing Deni Avdija

Sep 25, 2019, 9:25 AM | Updated: Sep 26, 2019, 1:36 pm
Phoenix Suns general manager James Jones speaks to the media regarding the firing of Suns head coach Igor Kokoskov, Wednesday, April 24, 2019, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)

(AP Photo/Matt York)

Imagine the Phoenix Suns using a top-five pick on a versatile teenage wing who plays for Israeli powerhouse Maccabi Tel Aviv.

Oh, wait, they already did that.

The Suns drafted Dragan Bender No. 4 overall in 2016, and if his development didn’t turn out the way anyone in the organization hoped, the post-Ryan McDonough front office led by James Jones could have a chance at giving it another try in the 2020 NBA Draft.

Projecting Phoenix picks fifth overall next offseason, ESPN’s Jonathan Givony has the Suns drafting 6-foot-9 wing Deni Avdija in his latest mock.

There are obvious parallels between Avdija and Bender, but to put them in the same bucket shouldn’t be done — especially without the 18-year-old having played this upcoming season.

Avdija led Israel’s Under-20 team to a 2019 FIBA Europe title and was an All-Star in the event a year prior.

ESPN’s Mike Schmitz profiled Avdija the person and player after the latest U-20 MVP performance in July.

Despite battling shooting struggles and inconsistent scoring efficiency early in this year’s U20 tournament, Avdija averaged 18.4 points, 8.3 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 2.1 steals and 2.4 blocks in 32.3 minutes per game. With droves of NBA scouts and executives on hand, Avdija showcased the type of big-game comfortability teams look for in an elite prospect.

The son of Serbian and Israeli parents, Avdija played sparingly in eight games for Maccabi last year. What he does for the top-tier team this season will help or hurt his stock as a potential top-five pick.

On ESPN’s latest mock draft, he is selected behind Memphis center James Wiseman (drafted by Cleveland), Georgia shooting guard Anthony Edwards (Charlotte), point guard LaMelo Ball (Knicks), who is playing in Australia’s NBL this upcoming season, and North Carolina combo guard Cole Anthony (Memphis).

For the Suns, who signed veteran point guard Ricky Rubio to a three-year deal this summer, it should be noted that five of the top eight picks in ESPN’s mock could be labeled as point guards.

Penguin Air

Penguin Air

Empire of the Suns

Dennis Schroder #17 of the Houston Rockets handles the ball against Devin Booker #1 of the Phoenix ...
Kevin Zimmerman

Suns free-agency focus: Will there be a significant upgrade at guard?

The Phoenix Suns could shake up the backcourt to help Chris Paul and Devin Booker manage the load, but how likely is it via free agency?
12 hours ago
Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton (22) looks to pass over Toronto Raptors forward OG Anunoby (3) du...
Kevin Zimmerman

Deandre Ayton free agency market could be cooling with reported Pistons trade

The Detroit Pistons appear to have removed themselves from the Deandre Ayton chase days before free agency officially begins in the NBA.
12 hours ago
Phoenix Suns guard Cameron Payne, left, is hit in the face by Los Angeles Clippers forward Nicolas ...
Kevin Zimmerman

Suns free-agency focus: Wings, modern power forwards of note

The Phoenix Suns have been linked to Nicolas Batum before free agency and Thaddeus Young at past trade deadlines.
2 days ago
Phoenix Suns forward Frank Kaminsky (8) shoots over Portland Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic (27)...
Kevin Zimmerman

Suns free-agency focus: The center market after Deandre Ayton

The Suns will be hampered by the financial situation depending on if Deandre Ayton returns to Phoenix or not.
2 days ago
Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton (22) shoots over New Orleans Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram (14)...
Kevin Zimmerman

Deandre Ayton still Suns’ priority, says GM: ‘We want to keep it together’

Suns general manager James Jones said nothing has changed on the Deandre Ayton front over the past several weeks, from his seat at least.
6 days ago
General manager, James Jones of the Phoenix Suns before Game One of the Western Conference Second R...
Kellan Olson

GM James Jones clarifies ESPN article on Phoenix Suns’ draft strategy

Suns GM James Jones clarified an ESPN article that painted a detailed picture of the team's unorthodox practices in the NBA Draft.
6 days ago
ESPN mock has Suns drafting 5th in 2020, taking wing Deni Avdija