Is Johnny Davis Worthy of First Overall Consideration? | The Morning Dunk
Wisconsin's Johnny Davis has made waves in the draft world after compiling jaw-dropping performances since the start of the year. Has he done enough to butt into first overall conversations?
Welcome to this week’s Morning Dunk!
After what feels to be a more “normal” return to college hoops, there’s certainly plenty to talk about.
Multiple players have seen their draft stocks trending up, some fun first-round sleepers are starting to make names for themselves amongst draft fanatics and scouts, and big board updates are FLYING trying to keep up with the flurry of games and prospect performances.
Speaking of big boards, if you missed our composite board update, please check out our 2.0 release.
Also, our team released A TON of fun podcasts dedicated to breaking down current events in the draft world and answering plenty of questions we’ve seen on social media of late. Check out all of our shows on the No Ceilings Podcast Network here.
With all of that said, there’s some serious business to take care of in this week’s column.
I’ve avoided talking about this particular prospect at length because I’ve wanted to make sure I’ve seen enough to come to rational conclusions about what he brings to the table and how it will translate to the NBA.
Our own Tyler Metcalf has been driving the Davis bus for weeks, as noted in the tweet below.
No Ceilings @NoCeilingsNBAJohnny Davis Number 1 in your Programs Number ____ on your Big Board 👀 #NBADraft https://t.co/zgbwzLoitS
But I want to take it a step further. Obviously the next challenge ahead of Davis from a draft perspective is solidifying his stock over that of Jaden Ivey. But there’s another question that’s likely on the lips of many evaluators across the country but just hasn’t been asked yet:
Is Johnny Davis Worthy of First Overall Consideration?
Before we go any further, Davis wasn’t in the same range of any of the following names on my latest big board update: Smith, Holmgren, Banchero and Ivey. I also had Kendall Brown and Jalen Duren ranked ahead of him.
I’ve been hesitant to put either Davis or Arizona star wing Bennedict Mathurin in the top portion of the lottery because I’ve had a few questions with consistency. The good news is that both have eased any concerns and have put their respective offenses on their backs.
But Davis, he’s been in another stratosphere of late.
If I were to do another update to my board today, I’d have no choice but to rank Davis fifth. He’s proven more than almost any other prospect in this class, but it’s not just the production.
We can start with his numbers, but my reasoning behind investigating Davis’ value in the draft stems more from box score stats and Synergy percentiles.
Regardless, as you’d expect Davis’ profile is something to be reckoned with.
As of today, Davis is averaging 22.6 PPG, 7.4 REB and 2.8 AST with 46.0/35.8/80.6 shooting splits.
Where I get intrigued the most with his stat line is not only in the free throw percentage but in the attempts per game as well. Davis gets to the line 6 times per game, and the fact he’s effectively converting on over 80 percent of his opportunities is a key reason to how he scores as much as he does.
He has a mature approach to scoring. Nowadays, guards averaging over 20 PPG would generally have more than 4.4 3PA and 1.6 3PM to their name. Davis has gotten more comfortable over his last few games with taking threes, but there are a number of contests earlier on where he would have three or fewer triples attempted and still got to that 20-plus mark.
Mastering the mid-range, showing craft at drawing fouls and getting to the line, and being advantageous on cuts and the offensive glass have helped Davis build a diverse shot profile where he’s generally “Good” to “Excellent” by each play type per Synergy.
And I haven’t even gotten to his pick-and-roll game, where he scores and assists out of at “Very Good” to “Excellent” levels.
Davis ranks in the 92nd percentile as the PnR ball handler and the 82nd percentile in PnRs including passes. His ability to turn the corner off that initial screen and then accelerate and decelerate makes him such a dangerous offensive threat considering his comfort level shooting off the dribble (77th percentile on OTD jumpers).
Patience is one of the key components playing out of pick-and-roll, and Davis has plenty. He doesn’t force things within the offense, knows how and when to get to his spots and makes things happen once he gets there. He can hit a cutter for the lob, rise over the defense and score or is even smart enough at times to bring the ball back out and reset.
Davis hasn’t been the most effective cutter by the numbers, or on an island in isolation, but he has examples on film in big games making plays within both categories. His mentality of refusing to walk away on possessions empty handed not only fuels his success but his teammates as well.
And that’s what a leader does. Leaders set the tone for their team on both ends, accept the challenge and deliver when called upon.
The best part is those same leadership qualities translate on the defensive end as well, where he consistently takes the opposing team’s best man and limits their offensive output. For everything that Davis does as the “de-facto PG” for his team on offense, he also rates in the 79th percentile in terms of total defense.
How many two-way prospects in this draft class are also handling the bulk of their squad’s offensive load? Smith and Holmgren are excellent defenders in different ways, but they aren’t handling nearly as much of the offense as Davis. Banchero and Ivey are dynamic offensive talents but aren’t nearly as polished defensively.
I love the vibes I get when watching Wisconsin games this year too. Generally the Badgers are always a tough-minded squad defensively but the belief they have in each other offensively all stems from when Davis is on the floor. Everyone looks around and says “we have a chance to win because we have THAT guy”.
At the end of the day, the top of the draft is about selecting THAT guy: the one player who can change the course of a franchise because of his willingness to take all burdens on his shoulders and deliver.
On a previous podcast my No Ceilings teammate Corey Taluba asked me if Davis could end up as the top guard in the class should he keep up his stellar play. I responded with what if he’s that rare player who can single-handedly lead his team to a championship blowing past all previous expectations?
With how dominant Wisconsin has looked in their last two against Iowa and Purdue with two likely lottery picks leading their teams in Ivey and Keegan Murray, I refuse to put a ceiling not only on the Badgers but on Davis.
Banchero, Holmgren and Smith are all phenomenal talents, as well as Ivey. Each one deserves their own profile and time under the sun, so I won’t go too in-depth here. But the one thing I can’t definitively say about either is that point I uttered above.
I can’t sit here and boldly proclaim any of those four players change their team’s mentalities and outcomes on a night-to-night basis like Davis. That sentiment, along with his approach to the game and earning his rightful spot in the top 5 of the draft echo leadership in every way possible.
Sometimes there’s more to the game of basketball than only focusing on skill breakdowns or what pops on the tape. There’s a huge part in evaluating the intangibles, measuring communication and how players interact with one another on and off the floor.
Every indication I’ve gotten is that Davis passes those tests with flying colors, and to me that matters.
Now there are questions with how high Davis’ ceiling is in the NBA. Some don’t believe he’s plus-sized or athletic enough to take over games as a top option in the league. Others have pointed to his unorthodox shot mechanics when he’s bothered by the defense. And for all I’ve praised him as a three-level scorer, he’s only rated as “Average” finishing around the basket in half-court opportunities.
But just turn on the tape, and you’ll see the special talent Davis is. He does plenty that I can’t properly put into words.
I haven’t moved Davis into the Smith-Holmgren-Banchero tier quite yet. And Ivey is ahead of him at this point by a hair. But Davis is really making me question if he belongs in Tier 2 with the forwards/bigs up top.
For me, no one in this class is classified as a Tier 1 prospect, which would mean MVP-caliber/best player on a championship team some day. I think all three of Smith, Banchero and Holmgren have plenty of potential as complementary talents to a top guy.
Davis, however, IS the guy right now for a team that’s kicking ass and taking names in one of the better conferences in the country. I didn’t expect anything like this from him up to this point, so why should I put any limits on Davis now?
Just because he’s behind those other names currently doesn’t mean he isn’t in the conversation in my mind. I’d be willing to bet someone will have him first overall if he continues to stockpile wins and score out of his mind on a healthy and diverse shot diet.
All I wanted to do is ask the question first.
I’ve come across a ton of interesting prospects over the last few weeks on social media who haven’t just made the waves through “Draft Twitter”.
Even some major media scouts have started to either mention these names on boards or mock drafts, or have gone on the road to make sure they get an in-person look.
Since I haven’t done a deeper dive into more curious second-round bets some have knocking on the door of the first round, I figured I’d take a little time this week to highlight a few names I’m starting to follow closely.
David Roddy, Colorado State: To be perfectly honest, I didn’t have Colorado State flagged as a priority watch before the season. However, this team has left me no choice but to flip on a few games and try to put some notes together on anyone who has helped this squad outperform expectations to a top 25 ranking. David Roddy has been the hot name for the Rams, and some of his numbers definitely make me raise an eyebrow. Roddy is averaging 19.5 PPG, 7.8 REB and 2.3 AST on 57.0/42.1/73.8 shooting splits. He doesn’t take a ton of threes per game, but he knocks them down at a great clip and the mechanics look clean as highlighted by BasketballNews’ Matt Babcock.
He has a good frame for a wing, rebounds competitively on both ends and is one of the best PnR players in the country both as the ball handler and the roll man. While he’s a unique offensive weapon, his defense does leave some to be desired. He’s not the quickest laterally to stay in front of guards, and isn’t quite big enough to fully defend 4s and 5s.
The good news is that Roddy competes his ass off night after night, and doesn’t back down from a challenge. His strength does help him when he can get mismatches in the post, and the more he can space the floor the better. Roddy has emerged as a really intriguing second-round pick, but I can’t seem him quite yet as a potential first-rounder. That being said, I love evaluating players who are “different” from their positional norms. Teams should pay attention to Roddy.
Aminu Mohammed, Georgetown: Aminu Mohammed burst onto the scene after his impressive individual performance against Syracuse a few weeks ago. And judging by comments from top media evaluators including Chad Ford, who has Mohammed as part of his latest big board, it doesn’t seem like his stock will stop buzzing anytime soon.
Mohammed’s game is built on power, and as a 6’5” guard who could blame him for leveraging his physicality to gain an edge on the perimeter?
Despite the majority of his field goals coming inside the arc, Mohammed has sunk triples at a 36% clip on just over two attempts per game.
There are “slashers” in the late first/early second part of the draft with more size than Mohammed, but the fact he can convert on open spot-up shots and shows room for improvement given his clean mechanics gives him an edge over others who I’ll also mention in this column.
Despite being a freshman, Mohammed is already 20 years old which generally leaves scouts divided and is one reason why he’s in “sleeper” territory for now. But intelligent, athletic wings who can score in transition, cut effectively, move the ball, rebound and hit open shots are intriguing players to monitor.
If Mohammed can clean up some of his defensive shortcomings I’d be tempted to put him in a top 30. But he’s one of the 45 best players in this draft class in my mind.
Will Richard, Belmont: Shout out to Simon Rath on Twitter for this one, because Belmont also wasn’t on my priority watch list of teams before the season started. But go flip on tape for five minutes and you’ll see why he’s gaining traction amongst the other sleeper names for 2022. Will Richard is nearly a 50/40/85 player as a freshman, and rates out in the 92nd percentile offensively and 75th defensively. Another 6’5” wing who is a springy yet powerful athlete, Richard’s play has turned heads for those who have taken the time to look him up. Teams are always looking for young talents who can dribble, pass, shoot and defend. Richard isn’t a high-level passer, but he’s shown plenty of highlights doing the other three. He’s had a number of impressive outings this year including against one of the best teams in the country LSU, where he had 16 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists to just 1 turnover while shooting 4-for-8 from three. Do yourself a favor if you haven’t already and go flip on some tape of this exciting youngster. If there’s anyone I can talk about in this section who has me excited enough to enter them into the crowded back half of the first, it’s Richard.
Emptying the Notebook: Bryce McGowens
I was eager to see him in person for a few reasons, but mainly to get a better read on him physically and if I thought his frame would fill out over time.
A lot of where I’ve noticed McGowens struggling on the court comes from a lack of strength. Listed at 6’7” and 175 lbs. that weight number might be a little generous. He’s really skinny, but McGowens has a wide back and broad shoulders that point to him being able to add some bulk in his upper body and not have it affect his movement and overall physical health.
And when he does add some more muscle mass, look out. McGowens is electric with the ball in his hands as a finisher. He recognizes areas of opportunity to take it to the rack and draw fouls. He’s hitting on 83.1% of his free throws so far this year, so that should continue to remain a priority for him offensively. When he’s able to absorb contact better and finish plays for the and-one, he’ll only be that much more dangerous as a scorer.
Outside of his promise as a slasher due to his long strides and ability to finish at unorthodox angles, he has a ways to go in terms of consistency as a shooter and ball mover. McGowens has a one-motion shot that essentially reaches its peak for release right in front of his face. If he could raise his release point slightly, tighten and speed up the follow through his off-the-bounce game could really take off.
He’s comfortable looking to pull up, now it’s just about mechanically making sure he can knock them down. Of course, some of that is making sure he’s strong enough to gather his balance and not get pushed off his spots on those attempts as well.
From a passing perspective, McGowens is wired to score right now and that’s where his vision is focused. Should a man make a timely cut in the direction where his eyes are, McGowens can make the pass and hit his man in stride. However, he’s not someone to survey the court before he makes a move and generally has a belief in his own attack to where he can do it on his own. That’s generally when he gets his shot blocked or coughs up the ball on a loose dribble.
Defensively, McGowens wasn’t nearly as engaged as I would’ve liked him to be. He consistently got backdoored, rotated poorly, bit on pump fakes and lacked the impact we’d expect from someone with his size and length on the perimeter.
His engagement level overall unless he had the ball looking to score was lackluster against a solid Scarlett Knights team. McGowens is far and away the most talented player for the Cornhuskers, but he didn’t play like it in so many different areas of the game.
On my latest board, I finished with him at 30 wanting to buy the talent and that he would turn things around over the second half of the season. It’s likely he still declares for the 2022 draft and teams could talk themselves into the upside and take him with a late first-round pick.
But I’m not nearly as sold in the short term as I previously was. Years from now, he could justify my original feeling that there won’t be 15 other players better than him in this class. The amount of work it will take to get there though is more than I initially anticipated.
Dereon Seabron, NC State: I’ve done a previous stock update talking about Seabron, but his play over the last few weeks deserves another. Most notably, his last three games have consisted of 32, 21 and 27-point performances while also grabbing 24 total rebounds and dishing out 13 assists. Seabron isn’t the most skillful passer or ball handler, but his willingness to initiate the offense while being one of the most efficient slashers in this draft class at 6’7” have scouts incredibly intrigued. Multiple media outlets have Seabron right in the race for first-round consideration or already there. When you factor in his defensive impact switching 1-3 along with his triple-double friendly skills package, it’s hard to ignore him any longer. Seabron’s stock is WAY UP.
Tari Eason, LSU: I wanted to cover Eason on a recent podcast for a reason: he remains one of the draft’s biggest enigmas. At 6’8”, Eason’s size and length present problems defensively all over the floor. He’s taken on switching 1-4 on the regular for LSU, but it’s also his IQ and understanding of how and when to play passing lanes and trap up top to force turnovers. Eason is one of the most effective transition scorers in the country, and he’s electric at the rim when he gets there as a vertical threat. Don’t get in front of Eason willingly, or you might end up on his next poster. I still question his interior scoring package against similar or bigger players, but his efficient passing in half-court situations as well as his absurd steal and block rates have rocketed his stock into lottery territory for some. Whether he’s in the back half of the first round or amongst the top 14, Eason’s stock is massively ahead of where it was before the season started.
Blake Wesley, Notre Dame: I was caught off guard a little when Chad Ford’s latest board update had Wesley at 16, but it makes sense why scouts have decided to buy in. At 6’5” with PnR craft and isolation scoring ability, guards like Wesley don’t always come around every year. When I saw Wesley for the first time a month ago, I questioned if he could rise up mock drafts and big boards like Josh Primo did last year. A combo guard in a similar mold who also impacts the game defensively like Primo, Wesley might be further along at this point in his freshman year than Primo was last year. He’s not as efficient of a spot-up shooter overall, but the damage he can inflict inside the arc is hard to deny. Once his outside shot comes around with more consistency (34.2% currently), he’ll be one of the better guard prospects in this draft class if he isn’t already. Color me very intrigued as to how high he goes on draft night.
Mike Miles, TCU: Admittedly, I haven’t paid nearly as much attention to TCU basketball up to this point as I should have. Miles returned for his sophomore campaign and at times has really put the team on his back offensively. The box score shooting splits of 40.3/33.9/77.0 wouldn’t reflect dominance, but he’s had some scoring outbursts where he’s turned heads in terms of HOW he makes shots. Pull-up threes, insane finishes around the basket and some highlight passes that make your jaw drop, Miles is consistently a fun watch in college basketball. He’s only listed at 6’1”, but Miles has the bounce and speed with the ball in his hands to excel in a role at the next level. He may be a career backup PG, but he should be in the conversation with others we’d have at the position in second-round
Oscar Tshiebwe, Kentucky: Another name who should be more heavily featured on top 60 boards is Tshiebwe, who has been flat-out dominant at Kentucky this year. The Wildcat is averaging an absurd 16.1 PPG and 15.2 REB while shooting 61.7% from the floor. He’s had 16 or more rebounds in eight games this year and has three games with 20+ points and 15+ rebounds. Tshiebwe came roaring out of the gate at the Champions Classic in Madison Square Garden, but he hasn’t stopped producing at astronomical levels for a big man. He’s not as tall as traditional rim-running centers, but he’s 260 lbs., mobile, can get up off the ground and has a motor that never runs cold. His tools and production point to him having a role in the league for years to come, and whether he’s drafted or not his NBA outlook has never been brighter.
5 Games To Watch This Week
1/11, 7pm EST: Texas Tech @ Baylor: Prominent Red Raiders haven’t been in the lineup of late, but the team will still play competitively against the top program in the country led by a talented group of guards. Brown, Jeremy Sochan and Matthew Mayer are the top prospect names to continue to watch for the Bears.
1/11, 9pm EST: Auburn @ Alabama: Projected number one overall pick Smith is obviously the biggest name to watch in this game, but this should also be a great battle overall. An up-and-down matchup, both teams are loaded with speedy guards who can change the course of things with some exciting shot making. Look for Walker Kessler to be the x-factor up front as he’s quietly been one of the country’s best shot blockers and an underrated prospect.
1/12, 7pm EST: Duke @ Wake Forest: I’ve been plenty of Duke and am well aware of Banchero’s star power along with Wendell Moore and Trevor Keels. AJ Griffin continues to get better by the game, but Alondes Williams against a tough Blue Devils squad is the draw here. The 6’5” guard is averaging 20.4 PPG, 6.7 REB and 5.1 AST on 55% shooting from the field. If he can have another star-level performance against Duke’s collection of defenders, he has a great shot to end up in next week’s “Stock Watch”.
1/13, 7pm EST: Ohio State @ Wisconsin: Davis is enough of a draw in this game to command the watch alone, but EJ Liddell for the Buckeyes is also a name to watch for first-round consideration. The 6’7” forward has made some adjustments shooting from the perimeter, and remains crafty inside the arc. Liddell has also become a threatening shot blocker on the interior. Can Ohio State neutralize Davis’ offensive impact?
1/13, 11pm EST: Colorado @ Arizona: Now this is a defensive battle on the wing I can get behind. Jabari Walker against Mathurin is must-watch scouting television, but I’m also curious to see how Christian Koloko can impact the game inside against the brick house that is Evan Battey. The Buffaloes big man could get Koloko in foul trouble, or vice versa if the Wildcats decide to try and foul Battey out of the game early. Colorado has a few guards who can give Arizona some trouble, so look for Kerr Kriisa to have a standout game if the Wildcats want to dominate as they have often enough this year.