If the San Antonio Spurs want an infusion of energy, toughness, and competitiveness, drafting Johnny Davis with the ninth overall selection in the 2022 NBA Draft would be a wise move. The 20-year-old averaged 19.7 points, 8.2 rebounds and 2.1 assists during his sophomore season at Wisconsin, while leading the team to a 25-8 record.
In the latest Spurs Big Board, Davis is 7th. In the first edition of the mock draft, Davis went 11th to the New York Knicks. Here’s a look at the pros and cons of the Spurs picking Davis and his potential fit in San Antonio.
The Case For Drafting Johnny Davis
On a possession to possession basis, no one in this draft played harder last season than Johnny Davis. On both ends of the court, his determination was the main reason why Wisconsin was able to have a successful season.
Defensively, Davis is stout. He has enough quickness to stay in front of speedy guards. When he’s in the paint, he’s not shy about bodying up and getting his hands dirty. He finished defensive possessions by aggressively attacking the glass. For someone who is 6-foot-5.75 (6-foot-4.25 without shoes), he’s a fantastic rebounder due to a combination of timing and tenacity.
Offensively, Davis had to carry a massive load. Surrounded by a herd of future dairy farmers, he had no choice but to put Wisconsin on his back. While his efficiency suffered as a result, Davis flashed the ability to score from virtually every spot on the court. From step-back three-pointers to self-created mid-range jumpers to bold forays into the teeth of the defense, he did a lot of everything. He also averaged more than six free throw attempts per game and shot them at 79.1%.
In the NBA, Davis will likely take a secondary or tertiary role on offense, which will assuredly improve his efficiency. However, he exhibited enough promise as a No. 1 option that it’s possible that he could be a high volume scorer at the next level. With better teammates and improved spacing, Davis’ ability to score from all three levels could potentially turn him into a go-to scorer. That’s not a likely outcome but it’s definitely a possibility if he keeps developing — and that’s not something that can be said about many players in this draft.
While Davis doesn’t have optimal size, he has enough strength, bravery and basketball IQ to survive in just about any lineup in today’s NBA. He has the type of all-around skill set that should allow him to play big minutes early on in his career, even in playoff situations.
Davis gets high marks for his character and is considered a natural leader. He’s the son of a former NBA player and his twin brother was a teammate at Wisconsin.
The Case Against Johnny Davis
Davis’ inefficiency on offense is difficult to overlook. He shot 42.7% from the floor and 30.6% from three-point range. He also averaged more turnovers (2.3 per game) than assists (2.1). While a lack of quality help played a major role in those unsightly numbers, Davis didn’t help matters by taking a number of ugly shots. He also routinely missed open teammates only to force up a contested mid-range jumper, which is the ultimate sin in the eyes of basketball efficiency.
Will Davis be able to shoot threes in the NBA? The good news is he hit catch-and-shoot three-pointers at around 38%. His nearly 80% shooting from the free throw line is another positive sign. The bad news is his overall quantity of three-pointers shot and his overall accuracy from deep were both lacking. His form is also stiff and he doesn’t get much lift.
Davis was great in the first half of the season but tailed off during the second half. During that time of declined play, his three-point shooting cratered to around 20% and his defense wasn’t as elite. An ankle injury that he played through gets most of the blame for his drop in productivity — but it could have also been partly due to opponents figuring out his tendencies after getting a first look at him.
As good as Davis was defensively, will that translate to the NBA? He’s 6-foot-4.25 barefoot, sports a 6-foot-8.5 wingspan and he weighs less than 200 pounds. Players that size rarely make a meaningful impact defensively at the professional level. Add in the fact that he’s only about a B+ level of athlete and it’ll be an uphill climb to earn a positive defensive reputation.
Davis will be 20.3 years old come draft day. He’s not exactly an old man but he’s about a year older than a lot of the other players the Spurs will ponder selecting at 9.
Johnny Davis: Spurs Outlook
Davis would likely be a starter early in his Spurs career. He’s a reasonably good fit between Dejounte Murray and Devin Vassell. His defensive effort should win over the coaching staff early. On offense, the Spurs would likely give Davis a reasonably long leash to see how much of the burden he can take on.
The potential pitfalls for Davis will be his size, three-point shooting and decision-making. It’s assumed that he’ll make better decisions once he has better teammates — but that’s not guaranteed. His three-point shooting should also improve but, again, we’ll have to see. His size will remain suboptimal but the hope is his effort and toughness will make up for it.
Overall, I think Davis is a player the Spurs should really consider drafting if he’s available at the ninth spot. He doesn’t have the highest ceiling and he’s a somewhat iffy fit when looking at the current roster, however Davis checks a lot of boxes and has the potential to be a positive force on both ends of the court. If the Spurs find a two-way player in the lottery, that’d have to be considered a big win — and Davis is one of the best bets to be exactly that.