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.

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