Scouts at NBA draft combine offer thoughts on former Wisconsin men’s basketball star Johnny Davis | Wisconsin Badgers Men’s Basketball

CHICAGO — Former University of Wisconsin men’s basketball player Johnny Davis won’t be competing in this year’s NBA draft combine. He had his official measurement recorded Wednesday morning, but his only other official appearance will be during Thursday’s media availability. 

It’s pretty common for top picks not to compete in the various drills and scrimmages held during the combine. Other potential lottery picks who are not competing include Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren, Auburn’s Jabari Smith and Duke’s Paulo Banchero. 

Multiple scouts said Davis didn’t need to participate in this week’s events because he already proved his abilities. 

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“He was just very consistently productive throughout the season,” an NBA scout said. “He definitely caught, I’d say, every team’s attention early on.”

Davis led the Badgers to a Big Ten Conference regular-season title, averaging 19.7 points, 8.2 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.16 steals. His ability to be both an offensive and defensive force as well as his penchant for closing out games earned him the Big Ten Player of the Year award.

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“He’s at the base a very solid NBA player with a chance to become special,” Michael DeCourcy of Sporting News said. “One of the things people don’t understand about what turns somebody into a Jayson Tatum — from a really great talented prospect into what he is now — is the level of work that is put in. I would suspect based on his improvement from freshman to sophomore year that Johnny understands what it takes to become great.”

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Davis came off the bench as a freshman to average 7.0 points and 4.1 rebounds in 24.4 minutes per game.

A scout from a team without a lottery pick said he noticed Davis’ jump in performance while watching the guard play in Latvia during the U19 World Cup. 

He said he thought Davis had the ability to make a jump in performance, but the guard wasn’t on his radar for the NBA until the Badgers beat Purdue on Jan. 3. 

Davis scored a career-high 37 points, 27 of which came in the second half. He helped limit Jaden Ivey to 14 points on 33% shooting in a 74-60 upset of then-ranked No. 3 Purdue.  

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“He can score, he can pass, defend multiple positions, offensively can play multiple positions,” the scout said. “He has versatility, and that’s his biggest strength.” 

Three scouts mentioned Davis’ ability to score in multiple places on the floor. He isn’t just limited to his signature pull-up jump shot. He can score off screens, from 3-point range or in the post. 

“In football, they talk about a quarterback being able to make all the throws,” DeCourcy said. “That’s kind of what he is, as a basketball player, he can make all the shots.”

Davis averaged 42.6% from the floor and 30.6% from 3-point range. His low 3-point percentage could be a problem spot in the NBA. About 40% of shots during the 2020-21 NBA season were 3-point shots; only 17% of Davis’ shots this season were 3-pointers. 

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“He’s such a worker,” a third scout said. “He wants to be good.”

Davis is expected to go in the top 10 picks during the June 23 draft. He would be the 11th former Badgers player to be drafted in the first round.

“He’s not an A-plus athlete, but neither is Jayson Tatum,” DeCourcy said. “There’s a level of comparison that goes similar. Jayson was probably A-minus to B-plus coming out of Duke in terms of his dynamism. But the rest of the skill set, the package was all high level. I think that’s what you’re drafting. If you’re getting Johnny probably at eight, nine, 10, you’re thinking, ‘I’m getting a real player, and maybe a potential star.’”

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