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Lottery hopeful Avdija finishing season in Israel

Projected top-five NBA draft pick Deni Avdija will resume his season with Maccabi Tel Aviv when the Israeli basketball league returns Sunday, he told ESPN.

“Before I go to the U.S., I have a job to finish here in Israel,” Avdija wrote in an email. “As a competitor I am committed to my organization and teammates to help bring a championship to Tel Aviv. We were having such a great season, so winning the title, even with the delay and without live fans, will give me a sense that the hard work paid off.”

Teams in Israel will play seven regular-season games to determine the eight teams that make the playoffs, which will be conducted in a best-of-three series for the quarterfinals followed by single-elimination games for the semifinal and final at the end of July.

Avdija, the No. 5 prospect in the ESPN 100 for the 2020 draft, was in the midst of a highly productive campaign in the Israeli league when it was postponed in March, averaging 12.3 points, 5.9 rebounds and 2.4 assists in 27 minutes per game. Maccabi Tel Aviv is in first place in the league at 19-2 and is attempting to win its third consecutive championship and 53rd overall in the league’s 66-season history.

Avdija is expected to play a significant role for Maccabi Tel Aviv, as evidenced by a highly impressive showing he had in an intrasquad scrimmage this week where he scored 18 points in 25 minutes. His versatility as a 6-foot-9 guard who can defend multiple positions, initiate his team’s offense and create for himself and others out of isolation and the pick-and-roll has made him one of the most coveted prospects in this draft class.

The Israeli Winner league differs from other basketball competitions around the globe, such as the NBA, Spanish ACB and German BBL, in electing not to use a “bubble” concept to isolate players from the outside world and minimize risk of COVID-19 infections. Instead, teams will play home and away games without fans in arenas around Israel. Players have been instructed to self-quarantine at home other than for practice or games.

Longtime NBA player Omri Casspi has been vocal about his opposition to the league’s quarantine rules, stemming from protocols put in place by the Israeli Ministry of Health as well as a lack of COVID-19 testing. Several Americans, including former NBA players Amar’e Stoudemire and Jordan Hamilton, have already been fined for breaking isolation rules and leaving their home to shop.

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