Wizards take Johnny Davis with the 10th pick in the NBA draft


Placeholder while article actions load

Tommy Sheppard, president and general manager of the Washington Wizards, had just three adjectives earlier this week to describe the kind of player his team was looking for in the NBA draft: aggressive, assertive and relentless. Sheppard was clear that player position mattered less than overall talent and overall mindset.

So with Thursday’s 10th pick, Washington may have gotten a player who bolsters an area of ​​need and brings the qualities Sheppard was looking for. The Wizards drafted Johnny Davis, a 6-foot-5, 194-pound guard whom Sheppard and coach Wes Unseld Jr. see as a high-IQ scorer with an appetite for playing defense.

Davis led Wisconsin with 19.7 points and 8.7 rebounds as a sophomore last season and was named Big Ten player of the year. He primarily played small forward for the Badgers, but Sheppard is so confident in Davis’ handling and his knowledge of basketball that he believes the 20-year-old could switch between point guard and shooting guard.


“On the court, he understands the game very well. He’s a fast learner — we couldn’t find a coach who could compliment him enough on his basketball IQ, the character of him, the athleticism of him,” Sheppard said. “I think he is an underrated passer. I will continue to say that he is a great passer. He didn’t pass much in college, so I’m subliminally trying to encourage him to pass a little more. But I think he will be able to score at different levels. I think he is excellent.”

Davis grew up in Wisconsin playing basketball alongside his twin brother on a court their parents built in their backyard. There, the twins played countless battles that turned Davis into a fierce competitor with a penchant for appearing in big Badgers games. He had a gem of 37 points and 14 rebounds against then-No. 3 Purdue in January and a 30-point blast against then-No. 12 Houston in November that initially put him on the map for NBA scouts.

“I feel like you can really only understand if you have a twin brother or a twin sister,” Davis said in a teleconference, “just wanting to be better than the other guy.”

Score aside, Unseld is very excited to see how Davis defends. The coach was impressed with Davis’ ability to craft defensive plays on demand during the 20-year-old’s interview process with the Wizards: Davis worked out for the team June 2.

“The fact that he embraces that side is an important piece: you give yourself a chance. He seems like a very cerebral player,” Unseld said. “A guy who is going to do his homework, be tactically disciplined in what we’re trying to accomplish. But I think he will choose [defense] up quickly. If you have those two intangibles, you really give yourself an opportunity to be elite in that area.”

Bradley Beal is rehabbing his wrist and a local basketball court

Although Sheppard sees Davis as a potential ball handler, his selection likely won’t have any effect on Washington’s quest to find a permanent solution at point guard. The Wizards won’t want to entrust point guard duties to a rookie, and Sheppard said Thursday that Washington would be happy to have three ball handlers on the floor at the same time.

The GM may also have factored in the fact that while the ideal version of a point guard for him and Unseld is a more traditional floor general who prioritizes organization of the offense and overlooks scoring, point guards Traditional ones are becoming rarer.

“We’re going to try to have three ball handlers, we’re going to try to keep it wide open when you have [Kristaps Porzingis] Y [Bradley Beal]capable scorers. you put [Kyle Kuzma] out there, [Kentavious Caldwell-Pope] Out there now you’ve got Johnny, another guy who can fill it out a little bit. I think it’s exciting to do that,” Sheppard said. “The fact that [Davis] he’s a good rebounder who enhances some of the other things we expect from him. They were excited. On draft night, everyone is undefeated, everyone is excited. We really are.”

Washington selected 18-year-old Yannick Nzosa, a 6-foot-11 center from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, with the 54th pick.

The Wizards can now move on to the first item on their to-do list: re-signing Beal. The guard, who turns 29 on Tuesday, is eligible to sign a five-year contract in the range of about $250 million next month after a season shortened by a left wrist injury.

Sheppard hailed Beal as a worthy franchise centerpiece at a Monday news conference and said he expects him to be in top form by the time Washington opens training camp in September. Then the Wizards will head to Japan to play a couple of preseason games.

“I just look at the player, and I know he’s someone you can build your franchise around,” Sheppard said. “I know he’s going to have a tremendous season ahead. Where is he now [in his rehab] It’s not where he’ll be in a month, and in two months, as we prepare to go to Japan, I think he’ll be in full swing in terms of his opportunity.”