A familiar theme for the 2022 NBA Draft Class is multiple prospects taking a second-year jump as collegiate basketball players. Iowa’s Keegan Murray qualifies in that category, but so does versatile Wisconsin scorer Johnny Davis.
Taking on the No. 1 offensive role for the Badgers led to a massive jump in production from Davis during his sophomore campaign. Davis averaged 19.7 points, 8.2 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.2 steals per game on his way to winning Big Ten Player of the Year.
However, even with those numbers, Davis is not being considered as a lock to go in the top 10.
The Wisconsin guard put up great numbers, but the jump in efficiency was not really notable (50.5% True Shooting to 52.3% TS). Davis mentioned at the NBA Draft Combine that his high-usage role for the Badgers played a part in his pedestrian shooting splits, which included 30.6% on three-pointers.
“No, that definitely doesn’t represent me,” Davis said. “I could’ve shot better from the free-throw line, from three especially. I thought later in the season I took a lot more contested shots.”
In Chicago last week at the Combine, Davis listed seven teams who he met with, including the Detroit Pistons, Indiana Pacers, San Antonio Spurs, Washington Wizards, New York Knicks, Cleveland Cavaliers and Denver Nuggets.
“It went really well,” Davis said of his meeting with the Knicks, which included head coach Tom Thibodeau. “To see a familiar face and somebody who’s been around the game for awhile.”
In New York, it’s not hard to imagine Davis becoming a favorite of Thibodeau’s, thanks in large part to his toughness and ability to control the game on both ends of the court when necessary. Also, Davis joining a young core headlined by RJ Barrett and Obi Toppin would bring even more intrigue to the on-court product in Madison Square Garden.
“I’ve heard from people likes guys like that, so hopefully I can fit in with them and they’ll be invested in me enough to draft me,” Davis said of his fit in Thibodeau’s system.
Coincidentally, Davis is currently projected to go No. 11 overall to the Knicks in BasketballNews.com's latest mock draft. Senior NBA Draft Analyst Matt Babcock shared his thoughts on Davis as a prospect:
Johnny Davis is a bit of a throwback, and I mean that in a good way. He’s a tough, no-nonsense, blue-collar type of player. He has a knack for putting the ball in the hole and can do so in various ways. However, his bread and butter is in the mid-range. In addition to his scoring capabilities, Davis is physical and competitive, which allows him to be an effective defender and rebounder.
Davis is a safe pick, as my confidence level that he will be a solid pro is very high. I currently project his range somewhere between the mid- and late lottery.”
Davis is viewed as one of the safest players in the 2022 draft class due to his scoring and defensive chops. Utilizing him as a super-charged role player moving away from being a team's top option could be the best thing for him as an immediate-impact rotation player.
Projected as a near-consensus lottery pick, Davis should hear his name called relatively early on draft night. Wherever Davis lands, that team will be landing a tenacious player with a never-say-die attitude on the basketball court. A personality like that — on top of his on-court production — makes Davis one of the safer bets to hit his potential ceiling outcome.
The Wisconsin-NBA pipeline continues to flow for the Badgers, but Davis might be the most impactful prospect we’ve seen in a long time.
Betting on a player with the intangibles of Davis almost always work out in the end.