As the NBA’s only Israeli player, Deni Avdija has had a lot on his mind as his home country navigates a war with Hamas.
But as the new NBA season tipped off on October 26, the 22-year-old is poised for his most impressive year on the court.
The week before, Avdija and the Washington Wizards agreed to a four-year, $55 million contract extension that will keep him in DC through to the 2027-2028 season.
“Deni has many of the characteristics that we value in the players who represent our organisation,” Wizards general manager Will Dawkins said.
“He has a team-first mentality, works hard on his craft, competes with toughness and is committed to improving the community.”
Avdija, who grew up on Kibbutz Beit Zera in northern Israel, enjoyed his best season last year, averaging 9.2 points, 6.4 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 0.9 steals in 76 games.
He started in 40 games for Washington, equalling his starts from his first two seasons combined. The former number 9 draft pick is still working on establishing a consistent offensive approach, but his defence has earned applause.
Avdija also racked up double-digit rebounds 15 times last season, including a career-high of 20 during a January game against the Chicago Bulls.
Meanwhile, Sacramento Kings big man Domantas Sabonis, 27, is in the process of converting to Judaism and at the conclusion of that process, will immediately become the best Jewish player in the NBA, as a three-time All-Star who led the league with 12.3 rebounds per game last season.
And Amari Bailey, whose Jewish heritage comes from his mother, was drafted 41st overall by the Charlotte Hornets in the NBA Draft just a few months ago.
Bailey is expected to spend a significant chunk of his rookie season with Charlotte’s G-League affiliate, the Greensboro Swarm.