Johnny Davis is a 6’5” Guard who currently plays for Wisconsin. He caught the attention of many last year with his steady defensive play and difficult shot-making. Very few, however, envisioned Davis developing into the prospect that he is today. He has improved his scoring totals from 7.0 points per game to 21.7 and has upped his usage rate by over 15% (18.0% to 33.1%).
It was supposed to be a rebuilding year for Wisconsin. After losing 4 of their 5 leading scorers to graduation, the Big Ten preseason media poll projected the Badgers to finish 10th in their conference. But with Davis running the show, Greg Gard’s squad finds themselves ranked 13th in the entire country at 14-2.
|Field Goal Attempts||17.7|
|3-Point Attempts||4.6 (8.0 3PA/100)|
|Free Throw Attempts||5.9 (.335 FTr)|
|Steals||1.4 (2.3 STL%)|
|Blocks||0.7 (2.2 BLK%)|
(Via Sports Reference)
33.33% Unassisted Mid-Range
25.0% Unassisted Rim
16.67% Assisted Rim
12.04% Assisted Threes
7.41% Unassisted Threes
5.56% Assisted Mid Range
Guard Prospects from 2011-2021 w/ Shot Profiles most similar to Johnny Davis:
|Name||Height||Weight||Class||UA rim %||UA L2%||UA 3%||Assisted rim %||Assisted L2%||Assisted 3%|
Pick and Roll Scoring
There isn’t a player in this class more dangerous coming off a ball-screen than Johnny Davis. Davis sets up screens incredibly well, making fools of point-of-attack defenders with his crafty handle and burst. He has mastered the art of rejecting screens. Here he takes one dribble with his right hand to trick his defender, but proceeds to cut back to his left and take off.
Johnny Davis is the king of rejecting screens pic.twitter.com/3aBs06Dbef
— Will Morris (@w_a_morris) January 5, 2022
Davis’ pacing helps him to create easy rim attempts for himself out of pick-and-roll. Watch as he hesitates after coming off this screen, freezing the drop defender before accelerating into his chest and finishing through contact.
Playing drop against Davis is generally a bad idea. Not only is he capable of eating up space and getting to the rim, but he is also known to punish defenses with his mid-range jumper. Sag off too far and he will pull-up and make you pay. Though not a volume off-the-dribble shooter from long range yet, Davis is certainly willing to pull-up or step-back when defenders go under screens.
Davis is at his best when operating as a pick-and-roll handler, but he’s still able to create for himself without a screen. His powerful first step allows him to get by his man with relative ease, and he loves to throw off defenders with rip-throughs and jab steps.
Davis’ explosiveness also makes him a major threat in transition. You don’t want to give a player with his burst, strength, and change-of-direction ability a 94-foot runway.
Per synergy, Davis is hitting at a decent 55.7% of his half-court rim attempts. He’s a strength-based finisher through and through, someone capable of drawing and finishing through contact with either hand. There are plenty of times, however, when Davis isn’t able to outmuscle his opponent. This over-reliance on strength, combined with his lack of vertical athleticism, will likely prevent him from being a dominant pro-level finisher.
Davis’ development in the finishing craft department is something I’m very interested in tracking. Wisconsin doesn’t run a particularly well-spaced offense. Excluding Davis, the Badgers have hit just 30.1% of their three-point attempts so far this season, and rank 201st in the nation in three-point attempt rate. Can Davis’ show more as a finisher with greater space to maneuver in the paint? While the play below is against sub-par rim-protection, it’s still quite an impressive extension finish.
Developing counters, such as this nifty left-handed floater, will be huge for him.
Once again, Davis’ mid-range game is his bread and butter. His deceleration ability helps him create separation for himself. In the clip below, a quick behind-the-back dribble to his left gives him just enough space to get a clean shot off.
Davis makes hitting difficult shots look easy. On jumpers between 17 feet and the three-point line, he is scoring 1.038 points per possession (89th percentile via Synergy).
I’ll confess: I was skeptical about Davis establishing himself as an elite prospect coming into the season. I saw the tough shot-making. I saw the defensive upside (more on this later). What worried me was his long-range jumper.
Davis wasn’t a bad three-point shooter last year, but he was an unwilling one. 38.9% is a strong 3-point shooting mark for a Freshman, but he only took 2.9 threes/100 possessions. Davis had a habit of passing up open spot-ups, forcing the ball inside the arc and killing advantages. This same issue, though to a lesser degree, has carried over to this season as well.
While Davis’ efficiency has dipped to 32.3%, it’s encouraging to see him taking 8.0 attempts/100.
Players that shoot above 80% from the foul line and have his level of touch inside the arc tend to develop into capable professional shooters. However, I’d still be a little bit wary of projecting him to develop into a high-volume gunner.
Shots like these are really encouraging to see: well beyond the college line with little hesitation.
Davis’ passing is interesting. He’s posting a respectable 18.5% assist rate, but shouldn’t someone carrying 30%+ usage be racking up even more assists? Or can we merely attribute Davis’ underwhelming assist numbers to poor spacing and lack of support from his teammates?
Davis is a generally sound decision-maker, capable of throwing accurate, well-timed passes to the roller out of pick-and-roll, and does a solid job using his rim gravity to create easy lay-down opportunities.
At the same time, Davis misses plenty of basic reads. Below he doesn’t kick it to a wide-open shooter in the corner, instead choosing to force up an ill-advised lay-up attempt. But this is part of what makes evaluating Davis’ passing so confusing. Davis’ teammate in the corner is Tyler Wahl, who is shooting 9.5% from three this year. Did Davis miss the read, or does he merely think his lay-up would be a higher quality shot?
What makes Davis different from most 33% usage guards is his prowess on the defensive end. Davis is an active, alert off-ball defender. He’s excellent on off-ball denials. Watch here as he prevents Purdue stud Jaden Ivey from receiving this hand-off.
Davis is also a disruptive force in passing lanes, and his 2.3% steal rate probably even undersells just how adept he is at forcing turnovers. His anticipation is incredible, and he always seems to know when to pounce.
Johnny Davis is one of the best in the business at disrupting passing lanes. pic.twitter.com/5Arh9ivjqY
— Will Morris (@w_a_morris) January 7, 2022
This clip shows just how strong Davis’ hands are. He drops down to help on a cutting Mason Gillis, and rips the ball from his grasp with only his left hand.
Davis’ off-ball aggression can get him into trouble, however, as he struggles with discipline on closeouts. He starts this possession off with a nice stunt to cut off a driver, but gets too jumpy when closing back out to his own man.
On the ball, Davis’ size, strength, and lateral agility should give him the versatility to stick with most NBA guards and some smaller wings. He isn’t the most consistent on-ball defender though, occasionally losing his footing, getting caught upright, or lost in a screen. Still, I think his effort level is solid for a player carrying the offensive load that he does.
There are probably only three players who I can confidently say I’d take over Johnny Davis this year. I believe that he’s the most likely guard in this class to develop into a viable half-court creator. What team wouldn’t want to add a strong-bodied guard with his intersection of burst, off-the-dribble shot-making, and defensive potential?
To me, Davis is the perfect secondary guard initiator – maybe not a good enough passer or advantage creator to run an NBA offense, but someone who can feast off of secondary actions.
Davis isn’t situation proof. A team will need to entrust him with a steady diet of ball-handling opportunities in order for him to be a positive offensive contributor. In a more off-ball-oriented role, I worry that his spot-up shooting hesitancies could hold him back out of the gate. But given just how high Davis has risen on boards as of late, envisioning an NBA team putting the ball in his hands isn’t so crazy.
Follow Will on Twitter: @W_a_morris
Check out NBA Draft Zone for more draft coverage and college basketball analysis.