Deni Avdija is one of the top prospects of the 2020 NBA Draft. The 19-year old from Israel was the 2019 MVP of the FIBA U20 European Championship and was the youngest player to debut for the professional team Maccabi Tel Aviv at 16 years and 320 days.
Currently, Avdija is ranked fifth in the odds board to be taken first overall in the 2020 NBA Draft. Per BetOnline as of 05/16/2020, the Israeli teenager is a +1600 to be drafted #1 overall this year. While there are four American prospects ranked higher than him in the odds board, Avdija has a chance to join the list of international players who were selected first overall in the history of the NBA draft.
Here they are:
1978 Mychal Thompson (Bahamas)
Mychal Thompson is the father of current Golden State Warriors sharpshooter Klay Thompson. The elder Thompson was born in Nassau in the Bahamas but moved to the United States as a teenager. He attended Miami Jackson Senior High School before attending the University of Minnesota where he was an All-American in 1977 and 1978.
He played for the Portland Trail Blazers and San Antonio Spurs before he was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers where he joined fellow #1 picks Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Magic Johnson, and James Worthy in the famous Showtime Team of the 80s. Thompson helped the Lakers win back to back NBA titles in 1987 and 1988.
1984 Hakeem Olajuwon (Nigeria)
Hakeem Olajuwon was the top draft pick in 1984 when Michael Jordan was picked 3rd overall by the Bulls. Olajuwon was born in Lagos, Nigeria and as a kid, he played goalkeeper on his soccer team. He started playing basketball at the age of 17 and emigrated to the United States to play basketball for the University of Houston.
Olajuwon joined Ralph Sampson to form one of the NBA’s earliest Twin Towers but they lost to the Boston Celtics in the 1986 NBA Finals. During Michael Jordan’s first retirement, his Rockets would win back to back NBA titles in 1994 and 1995. In 1994, he became the only player in NBA history to win the MVP, championship, Finals MVP, and Defensive Player of the Year. The Dream is also the first international player to win the MVP award.
1998 Michael Olowokandi (Nigeria)
Michael Olowokandi is the second #1 draft pick from Lagos. He started playing basketball at the age of 18 and played at the University of Pacific without an athletic scholarship. He led his team to the 1997 NCAA Tournament and the NIT in 1998. Olowokandi was named as the 1998 Big West Conference Player of the Year.
He never made it big in the NBA and he played only five seasons for the team which drafted him first overall in the 1998 NBA Draft. After his stint with the Clippers, Olowokandi played for the Minnesota Timberwolves and Boston Celtics. With only a total of 4,135 points and 3,414 NBA rebounds during his career, he is considered as one of the biggest busts in the history of the NBA draft.
2002 Yao Ming (China)
Yao Ming is the most successful NBA player from Asia. Yao was born in Shanghai in China and he played on the local Shanghai Sharks professional basketball team as a teenager. After negotiating his release from the CBA and the Sharks, the Houston Rockets picked Yao with the first overall pick in 2002.
Yao was selected to start for the Western Conference All-Star team eight times and is the only international player to top the All-Star voting. Yao was named to the All-NBA team five times and at 7-6, he was the tallest active player in the NBA in his final year in the league. He retired after about with foot and ankle injuries which caused him to miss 250 games in his final six NBA seasons.
2005 Andrew Bogut (Australia)
Andrew Bogut was born in Melbourne, Australia. He started playing competitive basketball in 2003 for the South East Australian Basketball League where he helped his team win the conference title in his first season. After he was named MVP of the 2003 FIBA U-19 World Cup, Bogut played college basketball for the University of Utah where he was named as National Player of the Year in 2005.
Bogut was named to the All-Rookie team during his freshman year with the Milwaukee Bucks but after missing most of the 2012 season due to injury, he was traded to the Golden State Warriors where he earned his niche. He was named to the All-Defensive First team in 2015 and played a key role in the Warriors winning the 2015 NBA championship.
2006 Andre Bargnani (Italy)
Andrea Bargnani was born in Rome and he played professional basketball for Stella Azura Roma and Benetton Treviso. After helping Benetton win the Italian Cup in 2004 and 2005, and the Italian League in 2006, he drew comparisons to Dirk Nowitzki and was taken first overall in 2006 by the Toronto Raptors, becoming the sixth international player taken first overall, and the second after Yao Ming without NCAA college basketball experience.
Bargnani was the fourth Italian to play in the NBA and he had trouble adapting to the much more physical NBA game. He was traded to the New York Knicks in 2013 after failing to live up to expectations in Toronto. He signed with the Brooklyn Nets in 2015 before returning to Europe the following year to finish his basketball career.
2013 Anthony Bennett (Canada)
Anthony Bennett was born in Toronto and played high school basketball for Mountain State Academy. He emerged as one of the Top 7 high school players in the United States and played for the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels. He was named Mountain West Conference Freshman Player of the Year and AP honorable All-American in 2013 and was picked by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA draft.
Bennett drew comparisons to Larry Johnson but he struggled in his first games with the Cavs. He averaged only 4.2 points and 3.0 rebounds per game in 52 outings during his rookie season. He was traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2014. He played for Toronto and Brooklyn before leaving for Turkey. He returned to the G League in 2017 and was signed by the Rockets in 209 but was waived after Training Camp. He is one of the biggest draft busts ever.
2014 Andrew Wiggins (Canada)
The Cavaliers had back to back #1 picks in 2013 and 2014 and they took the risk of picking another Canadian after Anthony Bennett panned out. Andrew Wiggins was the son of former Rockets guard Mitchell Wiggins and he was born in Toronto. Wiggins attended the University of Kansas where he was consensus 2nd team All-American in 2014 and one of the 10 semi-finalists for Player of the Year.
He was traded by the Cavaliers to the Minnesota Timberwolves along with Anthony Bennett for Kevin Love before he played his first NBA game. Wiggins was named as the 2015 NBA Rookie of the Year and he spent five years in Minnesota before he was traded to the Golden State Warriors during the 2019-20 season.
2015 Karl-Anthony Towns (Dominican Republic)
Karl-Anthony Towns was born to an American father and a Dominican mother. He played for St. Joseph High School and played for the Dominican Republic team at the age of 16. He was convinced to play for the University of Kentucky by John Callipari who coached the Dominican team in 2011 and 2012. He was the SEC Freshman of the Year in 2015 and was selected by the Minnesota Timberwolves with the first pick of the 2015 NBA draft.
Towns joined fellow #1 pick Andrew Wiggins in Minnesota and he was the 2016 NBA Rookie of the Year. After a solid 2018 season, Towns was named to the All-NBA team. He was selected to play in back to back All-Star games from 2018 to 2019. In both seasons, NBA GMs voted towns as the player they want to start a franchise with during the Annual NBA GMs survey.
2016 Ben Simmons (Australia)
Ben Simmons was born in Melbourne and he moved to the U.S. to play high school basketball at Montverde Academy in Florida. He was named the Gatorade National Player of the Year in 2015 and joined the LSU Tigers in the NCAA. He was SEC Freshman of the Year in 2016 and was a consensus First Team All-American before deciding to forego his remaining three years of eligibility to join the draft.
After missing his true rookie season with a foot injury, he made his debut for the Philadelphia 76ers in 2018 and was named as the 2018 NBA Rookie of the Year. Simmons was named to the All-Star team in 2018 and 2019. He and Joel Embiid are the cornerstones of the Sixers franchise.
2018 Deandre Ayton (Bahamas)
Deandre Ayton was born in Nassau, Bahamas, and is the second top overall pick of the NBA draft from that place after Mychal Thompson 40 years earlier. Ayton was one of the top high school prospects in the 2017 class and he played for the University of Arizona where he a consensus All-American in 2018 and the winner of the Karl Malone award that same season.
Ayton was drafted by the Phoenix Suns and he immediately made an impact. He became the third rookie in 10 years to average in a double-double after Blake Griffin and Karl-Anthony Towns. This season, he became the fastest player in Suns history to reach 1,000 rebounds, doing so in just 94 games. He is also the youngest player to ever have a 25 points-20 rebounds game at the Madison Square Garden.