After being mocked in the top-10 of most mock drafts at the start of the year, Wisconsin guard Johnny Davis has slowly slipped into the range of the Charlotte Hornets. The shifty guard was the Big Ten Player of the Year and could be an intriguing fit next to Charlotte’s current core of offensive-minded youngsters.
Height: 6’4.25” w/o shoes, 6’5.75” with shoes
Weight: 196.4 pounds
Standing reach: Unkown
Davis spent two years at Wisconsin, improving drastically in his sophomore season. He played 24.3 minutes per game as a freshman, but only averaged 7.0 points. As a sophomore, those numbers jumped to 34.2 minutes and 19.7 points. His full statline for his final year with the Badgers was 19.7 points, 8.2 rebounds, 2.1 assists, and 1.2 steals on 46.6% shooting from the field and 30.6% shooting from distance.
Wisconsin qualified for the NCAA Tournament as a three-seed in 2022. They took down Colgate in the first round before being upset by 11th-seeded Iowa State in Round 2. Davis put up double-doubles in both games, leading his team in scoring.
Shot-making, rebounding, hustle defense
Unlike the majority of guards today, Davis thrives in the mid-range. In fact, he chooses to live there. Rather than get his buckets from behind the arc, Davis utilizes a variety of post moves to attack defenders from the mid-range. It’s nowhere near the level of DeMar DeRozan, but think of the way the Chicago Bulls swingman attacks defenders and you’ll have a decent idea of how Davis operates.
25 points on 11 shots for projected top-10 pick Johnny Davis in a win at Michigan State. Showed his ability to score from all over the floor; in the post, in transition, pulling up in mid-range spots, playing off stepbacks, and operating out of PNR. Physical guard with great pace pic.twitter.com/17Fsu3RVD6— Jonathan Givony (@DraftExpress) February 9, 2022
He pairs his bucket-getting offensive game with a solid playmaking arsenal. Davis isn’t the type of player to lead an offense, but if he draws help when he has the ball in his hands, he’s more than capable of making the extra pass and finding an open teammate.
Davis was the primary option at Wisconsin, which led to a lot of tightly-contested looks. There could be a ton of room for growth if Davis were to play next to a lead guard that could set him up in his preferred spots rather than what happened with the Badgers, where he was depended on to carry the load on the offensive end.
The guard is also an above-average rebounder for his size, which can be easily inferred based on his numbers. He’ll commonly grab close to double-digit boards. Davis has a knack for always getting in the right position and squirming his way by bigs for important rebounds. Then, since he’s a lean guard, he’s able to get out and run in transition with ease.
Really liked how Johnny Davis attacked the rim against Nebraska, especially in transition. Great mix of finishing ability with power, finesse, and through contact. Encouraging how he can find easy ways to score when the shot isn't necessarily falling. pic.twitter.com/vwOTiIjnMP— Tyler Metcalf (@tmetcalf11) January 29, 2022
At roughly 6’5”, Davis’ defense, both on and off the ball, is a highlight of his game. He’s very smart, knowing when and where to go for the pick-pocket vs. when to stay home and move with his opponent. Despite not having much weight on him, Davis is able to stay in front of defenders using a mixture of awareness and quickness.
Perhaps the most impressive part about Davis’ game is the energy he plays with. He combines his defensive talents with an unrelenting hustle that is often unmatched. Davis rarely takes possessions off and has the mindset of a top-notch perimeter defender, even at the NBA level.
Three-point efficiency, unpolished offense
While Davis showed some promise from behind the three-point line in his freshman season, those numbers fell off when the ball was put in his hands more. As a sophomore, he shot just 30.6% from deep on 3.9 attempts per game. However, he shot 38.9% in his first year at Wisconsin but was only averaging 1.2 three-point attempts a night.
Wisconsin G Johnny Davis finishing his workout with the Washington Wizards from behind the 3-point line. pic.twitter.com/Lr91dih92t— Quinton Mayo (@RealQuintonMayo) June 2, 2022
He’s not a terrible shooter off the catch, but his offensive role at Wisconsin meant that he didn’t get a ton of opportunities in that spot. There’s a chance that he could improve when paired with a solid playmaker, but that’s a risk the team that drafts him will have to take.
That leads to the next point, which is Davis’ unpolished offensive game. He was thrown into the fire in his second year at Wisconsin, with the Badgers trusting him as their number-one option. And while he was able to put up fairly efficient numbers, it was clear that he’s not a lead guard. His playmaking is average, as is his shot creation, but he’s not built to succeed in that same role in the NBA. At least, not right away.
Johnny Davis struggles as a ball-handler is noticeable. Handle is a bit loose and not really creative off the bounce. Part of the reason he struggles to create open looks for himself. pic.twitter.com/7plhMbFrpQ— Global Scouting (@GlobalScouting_) April 12, 2022
In addition, his mid-range-focused game is a very niche role. Players like DeRozan have found success, but only at a very high volume as the lead scorer within the offense. Wherever Davis lands, he won’t be the lead guy, and living in the mid-range could be a concern for some teams who will look for him to be a role player initially.
Fit with Hornets
Out of all the teams that could potentially draft Davis, the Hornets have one of the more interesting cases. As noted, Davis would probably succeed the most next to a top-level playmaker, and the Hornets have one of those in LaMelo Ball. With Ball setting up the offense, Davis would be free to move off the ball, get to his spots, and make shots, as he does so well.
LaMelo and Johnny Davis steals leading to fastbreak next season>>> pic.twitter.com/6k5pCW3RQz— israel (@iohandles) June 10, 2022
Davis wouldn’t be a primary option in Charlotte’s offense, which could either be very good or very bad for him. As seen with James Bouknight last season, who has a somewhat similar offensive game to Davis (in the sense that they were ball-dominant scorers in college who struggled from three-point range), adding a score-first guy can be dangerous.
However, the one advantage Davis has over Bouknight is defense. Davis is a good enough defender to earn rotational minutes on that basis alone. Outside of Cody Martin, who is more of a swingman than a guard (and set to be a free agent), Charlotte doesn’t have any quality defenders at the guard position.
With Kenny Atkinson coming into town in hopes of improving Charlotte’s lackluster defense, there could be a chance for someone like Davis to earn chances right away. His constant energy on the defensive end would help take the pressure off of Ball, while Ball’s playmaking would help set up Davis for easier looks on the offensive end. Think of it as a symbiotic relationship of sorts.
It’s looking more and more likely that Davis ends up falling into the latter stages of the lottery. If he is available when the Hornets are on the clock, he should be toward the top of their draft boards. His defensive presence combined with an intriguing offensive game next to Ball is enough to warrant serious consideration with either of their first-round picks.
And yes, he is the Taco Bell guy.