Discover more from No Ceilings
Is JD Davison the Best Point Guard in the 2022 NBA Draft? | The Morning Dunk
Just as we thought this draft class was trending towards size with skill near the top, a number of guards showed out this past week including JD Davison in Alabama's impressive win over Gonzaga.
Welcome back to another edition of The Morning Dunk!
Last week had some unexpected events occur all over the place, even in my own personal life. I unfortunately was unable to make it to UBS Arena on Friday for the epic showdown between Kansas and St. John’s, but nevertheless I broke down the film on my own time and will still “empty the notebook” on some noteworthy performances.
But the main headline this week comes from the spectacular guard play that happened across the nation. Top prospects had some standout performances, and even some lead guards who haven’t quite emerged as first round candidates by consensus like Caleb Love reminded evaluators how talented they are.
The point guard who may have helped themselves the most was JD Davison. Alabama scored a huge win over Gonzaga on Saturday, and even off the bench Davison left his mark in a number of important areas scouts had questions on coming into this season.
As it stood on Friday when I released the 2022 Draft Deeper Big Board 1.0 (pictured below), I had Tennessee’s Kennedy Chandler as my top PG followed closely by Overtime Elite’s Jean Montero, with Davison and TyTy Washington helping to round out spots in the top 20.
This is an incredibly early picture of where I stand, or at least where I stood. I’m ready to dive a little deeper into Davison, who I was massively intrigued by heading into the year.
And with that, I pose the question: Is Davison the best PG in the 2022 class?
Is Davison the Best PG in the 2022 NBA Draft?
The conversations around point guard prospects are fascinating nowadays. At a position where skill, patience, communication and overall execution mean so much, one would think those are the qualities that dominate discourse regarding fit at the next level.
Yet at the same time, the NBA is as much about length, quickness and athletic talent from guards all the way up the ladder to big men.
Measurables factor in as much as shooting, passing, dribbling and intangibles. And in that department, Davison wins the argument against Chandler, Montero and Washington.
Listed at 6’3” with a reported 6’8” wingspan, Davison compares favorably to similar sized pro guards like Russell Westbrook and Tyrese Maxey. His first step and burst coupled with his speed and acceleration in the open court already make for an exciting watch in college basketball.
But his verticality at the position stands out just as much as his explosiveness. Sure he can hammer home a dunk in transition or off a wide open drive to the basket, but what really gets me is his willingness and appreciation for trailing on the break or diving into the lane to crash the offensive glass and clean up misses AS A GUARD.
The rebounding on both ends of the floor because of his timing and use of his length is awesome. Cleaning the glass from the one is an incredible luxury to have, as you don’t have to wait for that same guard to get the ball back off an outlet pass. Davison can grab, go and push the tempo in ways that other wings or big men can’t.
It’s not the most important skill a floor general can bring to the table, but it’s becoming more valuable in a league prioritizing pace and tempo on a nightly basis.
Excitement is only one part of the game though. I raved about Davison’s competitive nature and fire on a preseason pod with Tyler Rucker going over some top freshmen to keep an eye on. Watching highlights and film from his high school days, Davison wanted to do nothing more than jam it home on someone’s head at any cost.
His energy and attitude to step on the other team’s throat appeared contagious to his teammates, and felt similar to when I saw clips of Collin Sexton even before he got to Alabama; another incredibly explosive guard who wanted to fill it up no matter who he was going up against.
I love lead guards with that type of demeanor because to me that position is all about leadership and communication. Consistently keeping tabs on your teammates and helping to get them fired up in any way, shape or form is crucial to winning. And Davison brings that to the tables in spades.
If Davison makes an electrifying play on either end, he’s letting the other team know about it. Even better, if he gets a step on the defense, forces the collapse and kicks the ball out to the open shooter for a swoosh make, he’s screaming louder and flexing harder.
At least that’s what he got to do plenty of in a big win over Gonzaga this past weekend, in which he went for 20 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists while playing 27 minutes off the bench.
I want to highlight that last point really quickly as it’s an important point to make when comparing Davison to those names I mentioned earlier. All three of Chandler, Montero and Washington are starters in their respective situations. Davison has come off the bench so far this year because of the veteran guard talent in front of him in Jahvon Quinerly and Jaden Shackelford.
Never did you see Davison eager to take an opportunity away from his counterparts to emphasize a part of his own game against the Bulldogs. He consistently played at a reasonable tempo, slowed down when needed and looked to set someone else up if the defense collapsed in the paint.
Some prospects would still try to crash in too often and force offense in an effort to add to the highlight reel, especially if they’re not given the opportunity to start. Davison plays a team game, and that effort and appreciation for fitting into a specific role speaks volumes to his maturity which is a requirement of leadership at the next level.
More often than not, it’s up to a point guard in the NBA to run the offense and score when needed, but taking a back seat to the more superior wing or big scorer. In some cases, even making sacrifices within a system to keep the ball moving and make sure everyone touches the ball to get the best possible shot.
I sense that willingness from Davison when he’s on the court which is huge because there’s no question he has the ability to challenge the defense and score when he only has one man to beat.
And when he has his shot going from deep like he did over the weekend, forget about it. His jumper was viewed as the weakest part of his game coming into this year. Hitting 4-of-6 from range against Gonzaga helped prop up his efficiency to 38.1%, but he’s still struggling at the free throw line shooting under 70% when he gets there.
He’s hit 7-of-11 catch-and-shoot jumpers on the season so far, putting him in the 99th percentile per Synergy. Therefore I’m not concerned from a mechanical standpoint. His play in isolation however has left a little to be desired as he’s not yet an elite shot maker off the bounce.
The other main criticism about his game that reared it’s head a tad against Gonzaga is his tendency to pile up some turnovers when trying to make the right pass.
There are examples on film where he’s shown the ability of a good passer, but I’d put him in the “solid” category for now. Guards like Chandler, Washington and Montero have proven to at least be good passers with room to continue growing in that department.
Davison needs to continue working on ambidexterity when it comes to delivering the ball as well as the velocity on the pass. Can he whip the ball cross-court? What about his timing and placement on pocket passes? Davison’s court vision doesn’t appear to be the issue, I just don’t see “great passer” upside quite yet and that was more of a question mark to me coming in than his shooting.
Chandler and Washington both have the handle and craft to carve defenses, snake screens, get to their spots and either move the ball where it needs to go or rise consistently for a jumper or floater in the lane. Leave either of them open and they can hit an open three. Montero has some of the most exciting highlights I’ve seen from any prospect in this class, but he also makes some boneheaded mistakes against high school level competition.
Davison’s baseline of scoring and shooting with the attitude, competitiveness and discipline of a lead guard give him as high of a ceiling as any other point in this class especially when you factor in his length and athleticism.
If an NBA team is willing to bet on his long term potential and groom him slowly, there’s a chance he jumps a few more levels as a passer and firmly takes hold as the best lead guard in 2022.
For now, I’m going to hold onto my ranking of Chandler in that spot as I get Chris Paul vibes watching him operate offensively and his footwork and strength on the defensive end are superb for someone his size.
But Davison’s ceiling already enticed me before the year started, and he’s put everyone on notice after a stellar outing against the Zags.
Emptying the Notebook: Kansas-St. John’s
Normally this section of my column is reserved for points and takeaways after seeing prospects and teams in person. Unfortunately sometimes life happen and plans change. This was still an excellent game to watch from the comfort of my home and important to note from a scouting perspective.
The main reason why I circled this game early on as one I would love to check out up close was to see Julian Champagnie against one of the tougher opponents he’ll face all year in Kansas. The Jayhawks have legitimate size up front in David McCormack and Mitch Lightfoot, and also boast a trio of wings/forwards in Ochai Agbaji, Christian Braun and Jalen Wilson who could make life tough on a primarily perimeter-based option in Champagnie.
Could he take advantage of his size and maybe punish a mismatch on the block? Would he still shoot as well from three despite harder closeouts by good-to-great athletes with length? And how would he fare on the defensive end forced to combat an opposing offense in all three levels?
The good news is that Champagnie held up well on all of those fronts. I couldn’t come away saying he was the best player on the floor, but he did put forth great effort and did everything he could for his team despite the 95-75 blowout loss.
He finished the game with 24 points on 7-of-13 shooting including 6-9 from three and 4-4 from the free throw line to also go along with 8 rebounds. He has a strong build like his twin brother Justin which he uses to his advantage boxing out and hitting the defensive glass to get his team going in transition. He’s not the same level of defender or overall rebounder as his counterpart, but he exudes toughness and the same willingness to do the dirty work when required.
In having to defend in multiple areas against Kansas, Champagnie at least competed, contested and gave effort to make things harder for some talented Jayhawks. He bodied up in the post, kept his head up in space and played passing lanes as well as made the correct switch often. He isn’t the quickest footed 6’8” player in the country, so he did struggle at times to contain the ball and close out effectively, but at least his defensive IQ and recognition gave him a chance to make something happen.
Offensively, he was about what you’d expect given what’s already been talked about him even before last year’s draft. He’s an incredible catch-and-shoot forward who can attack a closeout and score on the interior off an offensive rebound or move to the basket.
His biggest flaw is that he’s not a good ball handler which takes away from him creating good looks off the bounce attacking more often. This issue was the culprit behind the four turnovers he had against Kansas, and also why he rates in the 25th percentile in isolation scoring and 12th percentile in all jump shots off the dribble per Synergy Sports.
That does limit his upside as a three-level scorer in the NBA, but shouldn’t drop his stock too far. Champagnie still has a first-round case as a shooter with plus size and defensive rebounding ability. He still rates out in the 81st percentile overall offensively, and if you can look past some of the defensive and creation flaws it becomes a little easier to envision him as part of a rotation in the league. Shooting is still a high priority skill, and that’s exactly what Champagnie does best.
As for Kansas, this was another signature game for Agbaji as he poured in another 23 points on 9-of-16 shooting and 5-of-9 on triples. His catch-and-shoot ability feels like it’s taken even another leap, and he was already one of the better options in the country last year on those looks.
Really though it’s his continued comfort level handling the ball and getting going off the bounce more often. Does he still settle for too many mid-range jumpers? Absolutely. No matter how many times he tries to make them, they won’t go in. But if he continues his drive and gets to the rim, generally good things happen as he’s 20-of-24 on shots around the basket this year.
As a two-way wing who can score off the catch as well as on the move and play sound defense on the perimeter, there’s little to no question he’s a first-round pick in 2022. Not all draft boards may reflect this as such, but all of the buzz I’ve continued to see and hear points to that as closer to fact than fiction.
But the biggest surprise of the night was the monstrous performance from Braun. I’ve been on the record quite a bit dating back to the 2021 draft process regarding my appreciation for his game. Braun isn’t an explosive athlete or what I would consider an elite shooter or passer, but he’s just a damn good basketball player.
There are few other guys in the nation who are always in the right spot at the right time more than Braun. And when he has the ball in his hands, you can trust him to make the right play.
He doesn’t force tough shots inside or take highly contested looks from range. If he takes his man off the dribble and sees the help coming, he brings the ball back out and resets or skips a pass to the corner or back out on the wing.
That quality makes up for the fact that he seems to lack that top gear athletically to really make a difference in one-on-one situations. He doesn’t dribble the ball poorly, and he’ll pull off a nice move every now and then, but you watch him on offense and he just doesn’t have that burst to where you’re sitting there not questioning his status as a first-round pick.
But I would gladly take that type of player who you can trust to not do dumb stuff on either end on a constant basis than the explosive athlete who lacks court vision and ball control leading to turnovers piling up all over the place.
Braun shot the ball incredibly well, rebounded and passed when called upon, and defended multiple positions on his way to a 31 point, 8 rebound, 4 assists and 3 steal evening.
I was on social media right after the game before I got the chance to watch it, and I noticed a ton of people talking about what his night could mean for his draft stock. I’ve always thought there were some stylistic similarities to Kevin Huerter and that he could fit on an NBA team as a 7th-9th man with spot starter upside.
After watching and seeing him multiple times already this year, it’s really hard to keep him out of my next top 30 and envision him with a legitimate starting path in the league. Teams love plus-size wings who can dribble, pass, shoot and defend. Offensively, he ranks in the 93rd percentile in total offense and rates no lower than 75th in every category he’s registered enough possessions in to qualify for a ranking.
Even though he’s not that top-shelf speedster and creator, he can do all of those things good-to-great depending on the skill. And his basketball IQ and awareness on both ends are the icing on the cake. Expect to see his name on my next big board update.
Jonny Davis: First-Round Talent?
One player who was notably absent from my first drawing up of a big board is Wisconsin’s Jonathan Davis, which if you look around the buzz he’s started to get on Twitter you’d think I committed a sin by leaving him off.
Yes, Davis has been that electric of a scoring guard and on his way to having one hell of a sophomore campaign. The 6’5” Badger is averaging 20.1 PPG, 5.6 REB and 2.4 AST on 45.8/40.7/82.1 shooting splits. Talk about efficiency.
He initially burst onto the scene with a career-high 30 point performance against Houston in Maui, showcasing his shot making ability not just on open threes but also on pull-up mid-range jumpers. Hitting on good looks from deep is one thing, but contested makes while keeping your shot mechanically sound is a completely different ball game.
And Davis has a buttery smooth stroke with those swoosh makes that every evaluator loves to hear; it’s music to my ears.
Fast forward to this past weekend where he and the Badgers took on Marquette and Davis unleashed another monster game racking up 25 points on 14 shots, only attempting and making one three in the process.
In today’s game, usually a 20-plus point night as a guard means hitting on and certainly at least attempting close to a handful of triples if not more. Davis’ scoring ability inside the arc was what he chose to show off instead, and he didn’t disappoint. A very old school bag of tricks served him well in carving up the Golden Eagles’ defense.
Step-back moves, aggressive takes to the rim to draw fouls, floaters after contact. You name the two-point shot type, Davis likely attempted it and made it. I was left craving more after I finished watching this masterpiece of scoring craft.
The patience Davis displayed on his drives, perfectly sizing up defenders and surveying the landscape before he made his move was staggering. It’s as if Davis figured out all of the options defenders had to counter him and made the correct choice to win the battle despite which one was thrown at him.
That level of attention to detail and management is seen from the best of the best scorers in the NBA. Few actually have that gift on the next level. It’s far too early to definitively say that Davis processes the game in the same fashion as the greats, but I’ve seen him do it in two fairly high profile affairs so far this season to at least put some stock in it.
While I had walked away curious after the Houston game, I didn’t want to immediately overreact and skyrocket Davis into a top 30 position considering he hadn’t been on my radar before the year started. I generally want my thoughts to be cemented after a few games, not just one outstanding performance.
Now that Davis has my full attention, I do want to continue monitoring his shot selection and approach scoring from the perimeter moving forward.
While I love the emphasis on taking effective twos, ending the year averaging four or more three-point attempts per game and canning them at a 40% clip would be a completely different conversation. I’m hoping these one attempt games are the outliers on the season and we see volume from deep more consistently.
The other thing I want to see maintained is the free throw attempts, as he’s already been to the line 39 times on the year, a little over five per game. Guard scorers who are effective at drawing contact and converting from the line are tough to stop, especially when you factor in the threats of pull-up scoring from almost anywhere on the floor.
In terms of pro potential, I don’t think we’ve gotten enough of a glimpse as to just how good he could become. He’s registered 25 attempts in pick-and-roll so far this year and ranks in the 88th percentile in those situations. He does need to become a better isolation player both in scoring and passing, but I do like his handle and think there’s still a little untapped ability there.
I’ve seen enough scouts talking about him as a lottery talent, let alone someone who has earned consideration in the first round. I’d expect to see him continue this level of play and earn a spot in my next edition of the Draft Deeper board.
Caleb Mills, Florida State: One of the hottest scoring guards in the country, the 6’3” Mills has put up 17, 22 and 16 points in his last three games. One of those came against Purdue in which he was the only player who could consistently create their own shot on the Seminoles. And he was absolutely impressive in doing so, flashing plenty of step-back creativity and craftiness on takes to the basket. The smoothness of his game is pretty to watch, and the junior has become a name to watch for the 2022 draft so long as he keeps nailing triples at or around the 40% clip he is now.
EJ Liddell, Ohio State: Liddell was a tough scratch from my initial top 30 board, but he has a great chance of finding himself there after an eye-opening performance against Duke. The 6’7” forward dropped 14 points, 14 rebounds, 6 assists and 3 blocks on a loaded Blue Devils squad, guarding and scoring on Paolo Banchero for a lot of the game. His improved outside scoring is propelling him as an offensive threat and complements his mid-range touch and power game inside nicely. He currently ranks in the 84th percentile in spot-up scoring, 77th percentile on jump shots overall and the 82nd percentile on all jump shots off the dribble.
Jabari Walker, Colorado: Walker’s shooting stroke showed signs of life against UCLA in which he was 2-of-4 from three and 6-of-8 from the charity stripe en route to finishing that game with 22 points and 11 rebounds. The 6’8” forward has been a bubble first-round grade by consensus since preseason, and has had an up-and-down start to the year in terms of perimeter efficiency (35th percentile on jump shots, 25th percentile on catch-and-shoot looks) but he’s rebounding the ball well on both ends and finding other ways to contribute and defend inside the arc. There just aren’t many players with his coordination and footwork at his size in this draft class outside of the lottery. Walker remains a candidate to break into the back end of the first with more consistent touch from outside.
Dereon Seabron, NC State: I’d like to see anyone who had NC State-Nebraska ending up as a 4OT thriller on their bingo card for the week. Nevertheless, Seabron stole the show with a ridiculous stat line of 39 points and 18 rebounds. While he continues to not show any ability from three, he did knock in 17-of-20 from the free throw line which is outstanding. Averaging a double-double with a 30.1 PER to boot, Seabron has quietly been one of the most effective players this year in all of college basketball. Ranking in the 1st percentile in terms of jumpers isn’t something NBA scouts want to see from a prospect questioned as “draftable” but his pick-and-roll play and offense generated from the boards and in transition make for a unique 6’7” wing. Seabron wasn’t on my radar coming into the season, but he’s caught my attention as someone to monitor as an UDFA should he test the waters after this year.
5 Games To Watch This Week
12/7, 7pm EST: Michigan @ Nebraska: Plenty of NBA-caliber prospects to watch in this matchup as Caleb Houstan continues to bounce back from a rough start to the season. Hunter Dickinson and Moussa Diabate will be an incredibly touch matchup in the frontcourt for the Cornhuskers, but Bryce McGowens is capable of putting up efficient points in a hurry and could have Nebraska thinking upset in a rugged Big Ten battle.
12/9, 9pm EST: Iowa @ Iowa State: Keegan Murray is coming off his worst game so far when he wasn’t nearly as effective against Purdue as he was against lower level competition. Even though the Cyclones don’t have any “blue chip” prospects on the interior, they can still push pace and make things difficult for the Hawkeyes. If Tyrese Hunter can limit his turnovers and fill up the scoring column, that only mounts the pressure on Murray and co. to step up to the plate in a big way.
12/10, 9:30pm EST: Milwaukee @ Colorado: Patrick Baldwin Jr.’s second test of the year comes on Friday night against Walker and the Colorado Buffaloes. Baldwin had missed a few games with a left ankle sprain but is coming off a dominant outside shooting performance against Rice where he was 6-of-6 from three. This is another chance for him to not only shoot but also help his squad make the correct decisions on both ends and come away with a TEAM victory.
12/11, 2:30pm EST: UCLA @ Marquette: Justin Lewis is still an intriguing sophomore forward to watch as the year goes on, and he’ll have his hands full against Jaime Jaquez and the Bruins. The Golden Eagles will need every bit of Lewis’ two-way play on the wing to come out with an upset win. Keep an eye on Peyton Watson as well as he has the raw talent to break out at any point this season.
12/11, 10pm EST: Houston @ Alabama: This game has massive potential as one of the most fun watches of the day as two electric backcourts will square off in this one. Davison, Shackelford and Quinerly better be ready for a fight as Marcus Sasser won’t back down from a challenge. Kyler Edwards and Tramon Mark are a few other names to watch for the Cougars.