NBA Uncategorized

BIG PICTURE: What does Johnny Davis mean for the rest of the Wizards?

Is there an end to purgatory in sight?

If I had to guess, good things.

As the number one “Trade Beal, blow it up, rebuild, I hate purgatory, here’s more malcontent buzzwords,” guy in the room, I didn’t expect to say that. Let alone actually think it.

Corey Kispert did not move me. Rui Hachimura had me punching the air. Deni was awesome but his low floor is showing. And those guys were all selected to much lesser teams. I can’t remember the last time a pick felt positive and directional. Let me explain.

Johnny Davis is interchangeable with Dyson Daniels as the best Beal complement in the draft.

High usage scoring guards like Beal, Damian Lillard, Zach LaVine are all optimized with a guy like Davis. Someone next to them that can provide secondary ball handling so they can get better looks than only self-created ones. They also need someone that can no doubt take the matchup of the other team’s best guard. Finally, someone that rebounds to improve their options in transition. The scoring guard can get to his spots easier because the defense’s number one threat is always the guy with the ball.

In exchange for worse playmaking chops than Dyson, Davis offers the ability to pressure the rim and get his own buckets, especially off the ball. He was a 20 ppg scorer at Wisconsin-Madison, and that’s without being a true shot creator. He is much better cutting, getting to the rack, and shooting off the catch. Those are things he couldn’t do and now gets to. He also gets infinitely better spacing, with the bigger NBA arc and teammates that are both competent and able to shoot. 

Davis not a bad playmaker because Dyson is an awesome one. He has shown some passes that average NBA playmakers don’t typically make. Don’t show me assist numbers, show me tape. Davis had a poor assist:turnover ratio, but he had a tremendous turnover rate. He played 34 out of 40 minutes, on a usage rate of 32.2%, and gave it away just 2.3 times. That isn’t just not high; that’s insanely low. That’s actually tremendous.

Seven players in the NBA had a higher usage rate this season, and every single one of them had a worse turnover rate than Johnny. 21 D1 players had a higher usage rate, and 20 of them had a worse turnover rate than Johnny. (Bryce Hamilton of the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels, stand up). 

(Also he shot 39% from downtown on low usage as a freshman, then basically only took on-the-ball, poorly spaced, keyed on by the defense looks this year. 79% from the stripe on over 6 attempts a game!)

So, he’s good and a good fit right away. Washington General Manager Tommy Sheppard introduced the selection as a guy who can “go between the 1 and the 2 pretty easily.” We’ve seen this offensive role work well in the past.

Beal led a top ten offense basically by himself with Ish Smith at point in 2019-20. That season, Beal’s best teammates were Smith, Davis Bertans, rookie Rui, and Thomas Bryant. 

Now, he and Davis will share the court with Kristaps Porzingis, Kyle Kuzma, fourth-year Rui, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and Daniel Gafford. That’s five teammates who could be argued are all better than 2020’s second fiddle.

What Davis means for the Wizards is most likely that Beal stays put. There were home run swings on the board at 10, and there’s always trade back scenarios. They selected a guy that they envision (rightfully) as a fit next to Beal. Probably for the next five, $246 million seasons.

Sheppard and coach Wes Unseld, Jr. have shown they like the current state of the roster, except for a veteran point guard. Rumors of Malcolm Brogdon and Monte Morris swirl in perpetuity, and the draft added the name Tyus Jones to reporting.

It’s hard to blame management for wanting to keep Beal, and the corollary of not blowing it up. He’ll soon have a case as the best Wizard ever. There is a winning vision to be seen, and it looks like this:

Guard

Johnny Davis, Bradley Beal, Brogdon/Morris/Tyus, KCP

Wing

Corey Kispert, Rui Hachimura, Deni Avdija, KCP

Frontcourt

Kristaps Porzingis, Kyle Kuzma, Daniel Gafford

That’s a deep and versatile ten. Beal is an All-Star, Porzingis is a potential All-Star (health, we know), and Kuzma averaged 20-8-6 after Beal’s left wrist surgery ended his season. While that’s not a Big 3, it is a Big 1 and two Big ½s.

A guy like Brogdon, who has averaged 19-5-6 in three seasons in Indiana, represents a fourth genuinely high quality starter. Three of those four play defense, as does Davis. What would be given up for a Brogdon or Morris or Jones remains to be seen, but their value is not so high that it would cost the Wizards Johnny Davis.

The depth of Caldwell-Pope, Kispert, Hachimura, Avidja, Gafford could afford to suffer a blow in order to secure a quality starter, whether it’s one of those three reported targets or a point guard of similar ilk. Ish Smith and Vernon Carey, Jr. round out roster spots 11 and 12. Both of those guys are overqualified for 11 and 12. That would mark the first time since 1978 that Washington has had a champagne problem.

Injury concerns are fair. Outside of Porzingis, Brogdon (who isn’t on the team yet), and kind of Rui, this team’s medical records are squeaky clean. Counting on one or two guys’ good health is what all 30 teams do, every single season. That’s more than within reason. Everyone is at risk if their best guys go down.

Is that team winning the chip? No. Is that team winning the Bob Cousy Trophy? No. Could they? If all the guys under 25 keep improving, which they literally always do, then the answer is maybe. When’s the last time the answer was even maybe? 

Either the team develops a star, or their young assets continue to appreciate value, and the team is increasingly equipped to swing for a Paul George, Anthony Davis, James Harden level disgruntled star.

Now wouldn’t that be a sight? It’s within the vision.

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