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The Duality of JD Davison | The Prospect Overview
JD Davison has displayed fine flashes and frustrating moments. What are we to make of him? Plus: Joe Bamisile is the Draft Sicko Deep Cut Prospect of the Week and Quick Hits!
On December 14th, 2021, JD Davison was ranked 8th on my board. Last week, he dropped out of my Top 30. Davison had a similar fall on the No Ceilings Big Board, falling from 21st on December 7th, 2021, to 47th on the board we released last week. Despite the decline in his draft stock, it seems likely that he may still make the jump to the NBA this summer rather than return to school. Let’s talk about why his stock was high to start the season, why it fell, and why he might still be best served by going pro. Examining these questions requires a look at Davison’s duality; when he’s good, he electrifies the entire arena. But when he’s bad, he’s one of the most frustrating players imaginable.
The first thing that stands out about JD Davison (after his exceptionally cool hair) is his athleticism. The Latohatchee, Alabama native isn’t just quick—he is sudden. His first step can put anyone on their heels in a hurry, and when he hits a well-timed crossover, it’s curtains for the defender. It’s not just speed, either; Davison can soar. Despite being a 6’3” point guard, he’s currently in the 91st percentile on Synergy for points per possession generated from offensive rebounds. Having a putback threat as a point guard is a sneaky way for a team to get an extra bucket here or there. His burst, strength, and leaping ability also contribute to his above-average rim-finishing numbers. These traits help him on defense, too, where he is quick into passing lanes for steals and can block the occasional shot.
Despite being considered a point guard, Davison can hold his own off the ball as well. This season, Alabama had a stacked guard rotation, and Davison actually came off the bench behind returning players Jahvon Quinerly and Jaden Shackelford. He also shared the floor with them frequently, too. Davison was a solid shooter off the catch, grading out in the 67th percentile on Synergy in that field. Though he wasn’t used as a cutter frequently, he did well on them in limited opportunities. His putback skills make me wonder if Davison could function as a lob threat, similarly to how Kansas has utilized Ochai Agbaji from time to time. His first step also makes him dangerous off the ball, as he can catch and explode into the paint, forcing defenders to quickly make tough choices about whether to collapse or stick to their man.
So far, it sounds good, right? Well…
The issue with JD Davison is that his point guard skills aren’t where you would like them to be. This issue becomes exacerbated by the fact that he is, indeed, a point guard. At 6’3”, he would suffer from a severe lack of positional size at the 2-spot, which is even more problematic when you factor in some defensive issues that we will get to in a moment. For now, let’s stick to the point guard problems. First off, he’s not much of a shooting threat off the dribble. Davison ranked out in the 46th percentile per Synergy for shots off the dribble in the halfcourt. The potency of his first step and explosiveness are muted because defenders can sag off him and go under screens, making it harder for him to get into the paint than you would anticipate based on his tools. Davison’s pick-and-roll offense suffers as a result. His total pick-and-roll offense grades out in the 58th percentile on Synergy, which is respectable, but it’s carried by his passes to others. As a scorer out of the pick-and-roll, he ranks in the 28th percentile, and he turns it over 34.3% of the time in these scenarios.
I feel that the primary reason for Davison’s pick-and-roll struggles better demonstrates the duality of JD Davison more than anything else; it’s his blinding speed. Davison’s greatest strength also creates one of his greatest weaknesses. He tries to operate at breakneck speed far too often. While his burst is a phenomenal weapon, he hasn’t figured out how to perform at full-speed all the time yet. Occasionally, Davison will blast toward the paint faster than the speed of light and then sling a rapid delivery to an open teammate. More often, his pass placement is less than ideal; he’ll miss his target, throw it too high, or hit his man by their feet and grind the offense back to a halt. Worse, I fear that Davison premeditates his reads. He’ll charge the paint and pass to what should have probably been his third option in the progression, but the second option will be open, and the third option will have a defender in his passing lane, creating a turnover. It’s enough to make you go Mugatu Mode.
Davison’s assist to turnover on the year was 4.3 to 2.9, which isn’t ideal for a lead guard. In conference play, it fell to 3.7-to-2.9. The turnover number is even more troublesome when you consider that he usually came off the bench, meaning he averaged 4.5 turnovers per 40 minutes. Compared to TyTy Washington and Andrew Nembhard’s 2.3, Blake Wesley’s 3.0, and Jaden Ivey and Kennedy Chandler’s 3.2, it’s clear that his turnover problems put him firmly behind his peers as a decision-maker.
So if he’s not a 1 out of the gate, could he be a 2? I’m skeptical. Davison is a solid shooter off the catch, but if he gets chased off the line by defenses, he will encounter all of the problems I just discussed. Plus, I’m not sure that he’s ready for the challenge of guarding bigger players when he’s still raw on that side of the ball, too. Davison has a big issue with sleeping off the ball. It often feels like he’s lingering around the bucket just to collect a defensive rebound so he can run the break rather than trying to prevent the other team from scoring.
Typically, if you’re discussing a point guard prospect who struggles to score off the dribble, struggles to make sound decisions consistently, and doesn’t pay attention on defense, you’re probably not talking about someone who would enter the NBA Draft early. You’re also probably not even considering the possibility that he could go in the first round. Yet, here we are. And here’s the thing… I’m not sure it’s crazy.
Davison is such a livewire athlete that it’s easy to see a team talking themselves into him. The fixes don’t seem impossible! If he can shoot off the catch, a front office could talk themselves into him eventually putting it together off the bounce. Davison has also demonstrated an ability to play with pace, and he did so on a few occasions during Alabama’s tournament game against Notre Dame. When Davison takes his time, he can read the floor better, and it makes his sudden jolts of quickness more unexpected. If he can reel that in, he’s right where you want him to be. Defensive attentiveness is an easy correction that is simply tied to effort and dedication. When he has the desire to do so, he can get it done on that side—he just needs to do it consistently. While his problems seem daunting and overwhelming, you can rationalize each one as fixable on a fairly short timeline. It’s not like he can’t turn left (I apologize, I re-watched Zoolander recently, if you couldn’t tell). A team may think that the best path for Davison is in the G League, where they can keep a watchful eye over his development. Athletically, he’s at such a high level that he should be able to hold his own. They may think the best way for him to deal with the issues of pace and speed would be to play against fellow professionals for a year. Many in the NBA Draft space have moved on from JD Davison, and I understand that. But I’m not willing to sell all of my shares of his stock just yet. Some, sure. But I’ll hold onto a few with diamond hands.
The Draft Sicko Deep Cut Prospect of the Week is Joe Bamisile!
Joe Bamisile originally captured my eye during a game between Saint Joseph’s and George Washington. I watched the game during my lunch break one day as I was trying to cram in Jordan Hall film prior to my appearance on the Draft Deeper podcast, hosted by No Ceilings’ own Nathan Grubel (cheap plug)! Bamisile immediately stuck out due to his leaping ability, tough shot-making, and demeanor. The man simply floats through the air when he elevates for a dunk, and he dunked 25 times this season, Per BartTorvik. If you run a query on that same site, you’ll only find 12 other underclassmen in Division One hoops who dunked 25 times and had a steal percentage over two and a block percentage over three. He’s awesome around the cup, finishing there at 65.6% in the halfcourt per Synergy, and he can use those same tools to make plays on defense. Bamisile isn’t just a dunker, though; he can shoot. He hit 35.1% of his threes on 5.7/game this season, and as George Washington’s first or second option on a given night, he often had hands in his face. He’s quick into his shot, can hit off movement, and can beautifully decelerate into a pull-up. It looks quirky, and he has sort of a “frog jump” motion with his legs, but it goes in. Lastly, Bamisile’s general spirit rocks. Even when George Washington was down, he had no quit in him. He clearly takes a lot of pride in competing, and he’s never going to hang his head when the going gets tough.
The issues with Bamisile are his size, his decision-making, and his defensive inconsistency. Bamisile is a wing, and he’s 6’4”. While he plays bigger than he is because of his physical profile, he would have to make significant adjustments against NBA competition. I would never consider the option of slotting him at the 1, as he isn’t a reliable creator yet. He’ll have flashes of impressive passing, but typically, he’s driving to the basket without looking much for others. His handle isn’t great, either, which makes gaining separation an arduous task. Defensive is the one area where his effort can fall off at times. I tend to be forgiving of players with bigger offensive workloads, and I’ll give Bamisile some benefit of the doubt here, too (He scored 16.3 PPG last season). Still, he can be reactionary when guarding on the ball, and he doesn’t have the feet, hips, or length to recover well once his man gets a step on him.
Joe Bamisile is currently in the transfer portal, and I’m intrigued to see what he looks like on a more competitive squad. On a 12-18 Atlantic-10 team, he carried a heavy burden that exposed his lack of playmaking, but he still managed to score efficiently, posting 45.8/35.1/71.4 shooting splits. He could shine brighter and potentially exert better defensive effort more frequently in a better situation. If that happens, and he can take a step as a creator, he’ll have a puncher’s chance. Right now, as a 6’4” wing who lacks passing juice and a polished handle, it would be exceedingly difficult for him to catch on at the NBA level.
-Division Three prospect Ryan Turell of Yeshiva University made headlines last week when he declared for the NBA Draft. If he is selected on draft night or signed afterward, he would be the first Orthodox Jewish player in NBA history. Being the Draft Sicko that I am, I immediately hunted down his film and watched him compete against Illinois Wesleyan, one of the best D-3 programs in the nation. One thing is for sure: Turell can shoot the lights out. The 6’7” wing who scores 27.1 PPG hits 47% of his long-range shots, and he isn’t shy about launching them, either. Turell can make tough ones off the bounce and off movement. He can pass, too. Unfortunately, his case falls apart when you get to athleticism. Turell feels slow, and this is when he’s on a D-3 court. He doesn’t have the spring in his step to gain separation consistently, he’s not fast running off screens, he’s not much of a leaper, and he isn’t up to snuff laterally on defense. Turell’s best path, in my opinion, is to use this exposure to transfer up to a Division One program where he’ll have better athletic training available to him. I think he can comfortably compete at that level, and it would allow him to patch up his biggest weakness. As far as him playing in the NBA next year, I don’t see it, but I’m rooting for him.
-I regret sleeping on Trayce Jackson-Davis for most of the year. His ability to position himself on defense and soar for blocks gave Wyoming fits in their play-in game. His post finesse, catch radius on lobs, and ability to move the ball make him a perfect offensive big man in the modern NBA. I’m still not sure exactly where to slot him in the grand scheme of things or if I would even draft him, though. At 6’9”, his size doesn’t leap off the page, and it’s hard to imagine him starting or becoming a “special” player. That said, there are going to be players who get looks ahead of him that he will outperform over the course of their careers.
-If a team rolls the dice on Josh Minott, I will completely understand. Memphis’ freshman had two of the most impressive plays I’ve seen recently. Against Houston, he drove to the basket and went to throw a jump pass, saw it wasn’t there, and turned it into a floater that went in. Against Gonzaga, he had one of the most breath-taking tip-ins I can recall. His size, fluidity, and explosiveness are tantalizing, but it’s the flashes of touch and his savvy that knock my socks off. Still, if he comes back for another year, I certainly won’t complain about getting to watch him in a bigger role.
-Richmond’s Tyler Burton deserves a nod for his outstanding performance against Iowa. Sure, Burton’s turnovers were emblematic of his distribution warts, but his motor never shut off, and he did a great job when matched up with Keegan Murray. We knew he could shoot, we knew he had an NBA body, and now we know he can compete defensively against some of the best in the world. I still have reservations about his feel, but it seemed like Burton solidified himself as a draftable player after that game.