Johnny Davis speaks on his rookie season originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
WASHINGTON — When Johnny Davis took his warmups off and trotted to the scorer’s table to check in on Monday night, it had been nearly six weeks since he last appeared in a game for the Wizards. A small portion of that period saw the rookie recover from a hip injury, but otherwise he was where he has been for most of this season; in the G-League.
The 10th overall draft pick in June, Davis has been taking his lumps while playing for the Capital City Go-Go. The Wizards have continued to turn elsewhere for rotation minutes, even when Bradley Beal, who plays Davis’ position, has been out due to injury.
“It felt good to get out there and play again,” Davis said. “I didn’t realize it’d been that long since I had checked into a game. I’ve just always gotta stay ready for when my opportunity comes.”
Beal was sidelined on Monday with left foot soreness. It was the 22nd game he’s missed this season and with him out, the Wizards started Corey Kispert in his place. Behind Kispert, they played recent acquisition Kendrick Nunn and also Will Barton, who has mostly been out of the rotation since late December.
Davis was drafted as a lottery pick to be a key contributor long-term at the shooting guard position. But so far he’s only appeared in 11 games, playing a total of 56 minutes.
Davis described his rookie season so far as “up and down.” In the G-League, he is averaging 10.8 points and 3.7 rebounds while shooting 38.1% from the field and 29.5% from three.
While those numbers would indicate he’s struggling, Davis believes he is making continual progress.
“Overall, I’ve just made strides in every aspect of the game. It’s very different than college and I realized that as soon as I got here. I’m just trying to learn the game flow,” he said.
Davis said he fully understands why the Wizards have kept him in the G-League for the majority of this season. It may be unusual for a 10th overall pick in their rookie season, but Davis feels it is in part a matter of circumstance.
“I didn’t have a rotation spot on the team. I wasn’t going to sit on the bench the whole year, I needed to get minutes somewhere. I think it was actually very key to my development,” he said.
Davis played just over six minutes in Monday night’s loss to the Cavaliers. He had two points, shooting 1-for-3 from the field.
Head coach Wes Unseld Jr. found some positives in what he showed in his half-quarter of game action. Unseld Jr. said he was impressed with his mobility on defense, how he got down in his stance and moved his feet. Davis’ defense is generally considered ahead of his offense at this stage in his development.
The offense, though, will have to come around if he wants to play a factor at the NBA level. That he was still out of the regular rotation on a night both Beal and Kyle Kuzma were missing suggests he has some real work to do in order to earn his opportunity.
Davis can perhaps look back at how his college career transpired. As a freshman at Wisconsin, he averaged just 7.0 points per game and was not expected to be a first-round pick. He then made a major leap as a sophomore, scoring 19.7 points per game as a consensus All-American and turned himself into a lottery pick.
As for what the key was to make that improvement, Davis said this:
“Just understanding game flow and coming back the next year getting bigger, stronger and faster. Just maturing,” he said.
Davis will get a chance to come back better next year in the offseason. For now, he has to keep doing what he can to improve in the short term, even if he has a long way to go.