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Tuesday, August 16, 2022

How Johnny Davis can impact the Washington Wizards

The Washington Wizards selected Johnny Davis with a top ten pick in the 2022 NBA Draft. Now that the star Badger guard has a home, it is up to him to adjust to the NBA level and find a role on the team.

On June 23, NBA Draft Day 2022, Johnny Davis was drafted tenth overall by the Washington Wizards — becoming the first Wisconsin Badger selected in the NBA Draft since 2015. 

Davis also became the first Wisconsin underclassman to be drafted in the first round and the second top-ten pick in the Common Draft Era, dating back to 1966.

Davis’ most recent season is amongst the most impressive in Wisconsin’s history. He averaged 19.7 points, 8.2 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game on his way to earning Big 10 Player of the Year, Jerry West Shooting Guard of the Year and Lute Olson National Player of the Year honors during his sophomore season.

"We are so proud of Johnny for fulfilling his dream of making the NBA," Wisconsin head coach Greg Gard said following the draft. "The Washington Wizards are getting a proven winner, and the most competitive player in this draft class … Playing for the University of Wisconsin meant something special to Johnny, and tonight meant something special to his state and our program."

Last season at Wisconsin, the Badger offense ran almost entirely through Davis. He finished just second on the team in minutes per game (34.3), while leading in usage rate at 32.3%. Not to mention, he spent the season receiving almost full defensive attention given Wisconsin’s lack of scoring. 

Despite such a high offensive workload, Davis’ defense remained a focal point of his game. He finished second on the team in defensive rating (96.2) and third in steals (1.1).

Regardless of his role or amount of playing time in Washington, Davis will immediately provide a strong defensive presence. 

In his post-draft interview, when asked what he will bring to the Wizards, Davis responded, “A defensive mindset.” 

“You can never control if the ball goes in the basket or not, so I think you can always control your effort and intensity,” he continued.

At the time Davis was drafted, the team was unsure if all-star guard Bradley Beal would return. On Wednesday, Beal opted out of his $36.4 million player option for the upcoming 2022-23 season, becoming a free agent. Ava Wallace reported in March that Beal was leaning toward making this move and re-signing with the Wizards on a five-year maximum contract. 

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN confirmed this speculation, reporting Thursday that Beal would resign with the Wizards on a five-year, $251 million maximum contract.

Out of Washington’s current shooting guards and small forwards who see significant minutes, the only trustworthy defender is Deni Avdija, who started just eight games in the 2021-22 season despite playing in all 82. 

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On June 29, Washington acquired guards Will Barton and Monte Morris from the Denver Nuggets in exchange for guards Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Ish Smith — marking the Wizard’s first significant move of the offseason. 

Barton plays the same positions as Davis and may cut into his playing time but is not a defensive-centric player. Davis will still have immense value in the Washington rotation with his defense, physicality and youth. However, Morris is a more traditional point guard who can create plays for Davis.

On the offensive side, Davis showed plenty of scoring proficiency in the paint and mid-range last season at Wisconsin. His biggest flaw is three-point shooting, finishing just 30.6% last year on 3.9 attempts per game. Beal’s scoring gravity should draw attention away from Davis, enabling him to improve his shooting.

It is the ultimate goal of the Wizards that Beal and Davis play alongside each other, with Beal shouldering the offensive burden while Davis relieves defensive pressure.

Bottom line, Davis should enter the league as a skilled role player with plenty of opportunities on a mediocre team to improve his flaws and learn how to operate in an NBA system. 

His defense, intensity and scoring —in front of the three-point line — will earn him enough playing time early on to find a role. If he develops a consistent three-point jump shot, he has true all-star potential and could become a viable starter for years. 

But, that’s a crucial “if.”

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