Midway into his rookie season, what are the Wizards coaches say about Johnny Davis?

What are the Wizards coaches saying about rookie Johnny Davis? originally appeared on NBC SportsWashington

WASHINGTON — The Wizards played their 41st game of the 2022-23 campaign on Monday night, which means Johnny Davis is halfway through his rookie season. He was not active for the game, as he is currently dealing with a hip injury which has more so sidelined him from playing with the Capital City Go-Go, their G-League affiliate, than it has for the Wizards.

Davis, the 10th overall pick, has spent the majority of his time this season in the G-League. He has played in 10 games for the Wizards, scoring 11 points across 50 minutes.

Among first round picks in the 2022 NBA Draft, only three have played fewer minutes than Davis has this season. One of them is Chet Holmgren of the Thunder, who was lost for the year due to a foot injury. The other two, Blake Wesley of the Spurs and Peyton Watson of the Nuggets, were the 25th and 30th overall picks.

Only 20 years old, Davis will hope for better success moving forward. This weekend, his coaches shed some light on how that can be achieved.

Wizards head coach Wes Unseld Jr. has been paying attention to Davis’ games in the G-League and shared some positive takeaways.

“I think the injuries have been a big piece of it. It’s hard to really evaluate a guy who hasn’t had a ton of opportunities here. I’ve seen a lot of growth with his G-League development,” Unseld Jr. he said.

“The level of confidence he’s playing with, I think he’s starting to see the game slow down for him. Offensively, I think he’s starting to settle in to see the types of plays and the types of shots we want him to take. So, there’s a lot of growth there. I know it’s not translating as fast as maybe we would all like to see, but I think it bodes well.”

Davis has played in 14 games for the Go-Go this season, according to Basketball Reference. He has averaged 11.9 points, 4.1 rebounds, 2.1 assists and a steal per game. He has struggled a bit with his efficiency, shooting 40.8% from the field, and his turnovers, averaging as many per game as assists (2.1).

Go-Go head coach Mike Williams added some illustration to those raw numbers; both the good and what Davis will need to work on moving forward.

“I think he’s doing an excellent job of defending 1-on-1. We put him on the best guy on every opponent and he does a really nice job of containing the ball. He’s got great hands. We talk about deflections, he gets a ton of deflections. I’d say probably four or five a game, just hawking the ball down,” Williams told NBC Sports Washington.

“Offensively, he’s shown some flashes of being a really good finisher around the rim, especially off of two feet. Where we’re working with him is just his decision-making and his shooting. Not hesitating, shooting when he’s open, and reading closeouts. Once he gets into the paint, reading the help. If there’s a guy coming over, we get off of it. If not, we go finish and we score the ball. A lot of that just comes from reps and watching movies and playing in our style of the game. As he continues to mature and is exposed to those things, I think he’ll get a lot better.”

That represents another indication Davis’ defense is ahead of his offense. Though he averaged 19.7 points last season at the University of Wisconsin, Davis was drafted largely for his defense. He scored in volume in college, but entered the NBA needing to improve his outside shot.

The Wizards struggle with 3-point shooting as a team, which adds to his uphill battle for minutes at the NBA level. The Wizards’ 2021 first round pick, Corey Kispert, was able to crack the rotation in the second half of his rookie season one year ago. But he was drafted as a 3-point shooter and therefore addressed a weakness when his playing time was elevated.

As Unseld Jr. explained, there is also more depth for Davis to navigate at his position than Kispert did, as the door opened for Kispert once Bradley Beal was lost for the season in February due to wrist surgery.

“Well, it’s tough,” Unseld Jr. said. “Once again, there’s not a ton of minutes. Those minutes were opened up for Corey because we had injuries to significant guys. He was able to benefit from that. So, it’s hard to say how this shakes out for Johnny when it comes to minutes with the Wizards.”

“Hopefully, we’re over the injury bug and we can move forward. He’s just gotta develop and continue at his own pace. We’re going to continue to push him and try to maximize as many minutes as he can get on the floor , whether that’s with us or the Go-Go.”

Beal is currently hurt, dealing with a hamstring injury, and has missed 17 of the Wizards’ 41 games so far. One of his backups, Will Barton, is also out of the rotation at the moment.

Regardless of whether that would open the window for Davis to play, or at least be active for games, he is sidelined now due to injury. Perhaps the outlook will look different like February or March. But for now, he has to get healthy and wait his turn for him.

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