“Situational Analysis” is a series of articles that seeks to examine the circumstances that most often influence an NBA prospect’s success. Each player will be scored on a scale from 1-10 in four different categories: NBA-specific skill(s), fatal flaw(s), collegiate/overseas/pre-NBA environment, and ideal NBA ecosystem.
Johnny Davis is a 20-year-old guard from La Crosse, Wisconsin, who averaged 19.7 points, 8.2 rebounds and 2.1 assists in his sophomore season for the Wisconsin Badgers. He is expected to be selected among the top-15 picks in the upcoming NBA Draft and as high as No. 6 overall. NBADraft.net currently has him projected at No. 11.
Everything about Johnny Davis feels like it comes from a different era – in a good way.
Davis is a throwback 2-guard with a relentless attacking mentality. If Davis played in a pre-3-point-line NBA, he would likely be a 12-time All-Star. Davis is at his best when he is slashing, cutting, slipping screens, and cooking defenders off the bounce.
Few prospects in this draft have a deeper bag than Davis in the midrange. He can stop on a dime and rise for a 15-foot jumper as quickly as anyone. He is reminiscent of CJ McCollum in this regard. But unlike McCollum, Davis is a legitimate 6-5 (6-8.5 wingspan) and he has the rare ability to punish smaller guards on the block with a couple of sneaky mouse-in-the-house post moves. He is incredible at absorbing and finishing through contact, attempting 6.3 foul shots per game and hitting nearly 80% of them. Davis is the rare kind of guard who can get an opponent in foul trouble.
Davis’ length and savvy translate to the defensive end, as well, where he is one of this draft’s premier on-ball defenders and perhaps the best inch-for-inch defensive rebounder in college basketball. He averaged a Westbrookian 8.2 rebounds a game from the guard position, while also frequently defending the other team’s best player. Wisconsin also relied on Davis for the lion’s share of its offensive output (32.2% usage).
Few players carried a heavier load than Davis, and he responded in a major way. He had some monster showings in some high-profile games, including an eye-popping 37-point, 14-rebound performance in a 74-69 win over Purdue, where Davis clearly outplayed fellow lottery prospect Jaden Ivey.
There is a real edge and swagger with how Davis plays. A team won’t have to worry about whether Davis is going to give maximum effort or whether he will rise to the occasion.
On a scale from 1-10, Davis’ crafty midrange game and intensity on both ends of the floor rates at a 9.
The downside of being a “throwback” guard? Much like most high-scoring guards in the early 1980s, Davis struggles from 3-point range and his efficiency numbers leave a lot to be desired.
Perhaps Davis will be a far more efficient pro, where he won’t carry nearly the same offensive burden as he did his sophomore season. But the numbers don’t lie. He shot an abysmal 30.6% from 3 (down from 39% as a freshman) and only 42.7% overall, but a 38% mark on catch-and-shoot 3s offers a glimmer of hope. Davis likely won’t spend the first few years of his career as a primary offensive initiator, so it will be imperative that he can turn himself into a reliable, efficient secondary option who can attack closeouts and pick his spots.
Davis’ point guard skills also lag far behind his scoring abilities. Despite handling the ball on nearly every possession, Davis tallied only 2.1 assists per contest and posted a negative assist/turnover ratio. Davis shows a flair for the highlight-reel assist, but he will likely never become a lead facilitator.
Even though he is a pesky, willing, and hard-nosed defender, Davis doesn’t project as a top-tier athlete, and he might struggle to stay with some of the league’s wing freaks.
On a scale from 1 (not a concern) to 10 (serious hindrance), Davis’ inefficiency rates at an 8.5.
If Davis wasn’t such a stellar hooper, we might have seen him quarterbacking the Badgers on Saturdays. A stellar two-sport athlete at La Crosse Central High School, Davis combined his hardwood exploits with an incredible football career. How many players (besides Jalen Suggs) win their state’s “Mr. Basketball” award AND their state’s “most outstanding quarterback” award in the same season?
Davis never elevated his stock to that 5-star recruit level, but he earned several scholarship offers from Middle America’s basketball powerhouses and wisely chose Wisconsin. He played well in limited action behind the Badgers’ balanced senior attack: D’Mitrik Trice, Micah Potter, Brad Davidson, Aleem Ford, and Nate Reuvers each averaged between 8-14 points per game.
After the mass exodus of graduates, coach Greg Gard handed Davis the car keys and let him pick the speed limit.
Davis’ overall game grew by leaps and bounds between his freshman and sophomore seasons. He led the Badgers to 25 wins, a top-20 ranking, and a No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament alongside several high-profile individual honors (first-team All-American, Big Ten Player of the Year, the Jerry West Award, and the Lute Olson Award, just to name a few).
Even though his college career came to an abrupt and disappointing end (a 54-49 loss to 11-seed Iowa State, where Davis went 0-7 from 3), it’s hard to envision a scenario where Davis could have posted a better sophomore campaign.
On a scale from 1-10, Davis’ pre-NBA career rates at a 9.
Ideal NBA Ecosystem
Davis is exactly the kind of confident two-way player many teams in the middle of the lottery need to help give their squads a jolt of toughness and shot creation.
NBADraft.net currently has Davis heading to the Knicks. The Madison Square Garden faithful would fall in love with Davis the instant he put on the orange and blue. It wouldn’t take more than two 20-point games for long-suffering Knicks fans to start hyperbolically comparing Davis to Latrell Sprewell.
The Washington Wizards, picking No. 10, could see some value in adding Davis, particularly with the always-in-flux Bradley Beal situation looming. Davis could bring some pop to a team that could use a little extra slash-and-kick.
The New Orleans Pelicans at No. 8 could also show some interest, as Davis plays with the right kind of energy and intensity for Willie Green’s up-and-coming squad.
On a scale from 1-10, Davis’ situational dependence is an 8. His game features enough variety and defensive upside for any roster, but he will be best suited to a situation that allows him to attack as a secondary slasher alongside high-usage starters or as an offensive spark plug on bench units.