“Tonight was about finding someone to invest in, to invest a lot of time in.”
Here are nine things to know about JD Davison, the Celtics’ newest draft pick.
1. Early Thursday night, the Celtics made their intentions pretty clear for Zugnacht.
In other words, don’t expect fireworks. The team that made it to the NBA Finals isn’t breaking its pace by dishing out a rotation player just to get up the draft.
“The cost of promotion was just too much for our position,” said Brad Stevens, Celtics president of basketball.
2. Nevertheless, the Celtics brought an interesting player on board in Davison. He rose to prominence as a high school star in Alabama, where he averaged 32.4 points and 10.9 rebounds per game as a senior. He hit a quadruple-double with 29 points, 14 rebounds, 11 assists and 11 steals. As a junior, he led Calhoun High School in Letohatchee to the Class 2A title, burying the game-winning 3-pointer when time ran out to capture the title.
The next year, Davison and Calhoun returned to the semifinals but lost to midfield despite a 45-point breakout from Davison.
Davison’s explosiveness and playmaking earned him high-profile offers, and he quickly rose through the recruiting ranks. As a senior, he was a 5-star athlete on Rivals, 24/7 Sports, and ESPN. ESPN gave it a potential rating of 94, ranking 15th overall in the country. He came from a small school with fewer than 200 students, but was nationally considered one of the top candidates in the country when he went to Alabama as a freshman.
3. Davison fought in college. That’s normal for a talented player from a small school entering Division I for the first time, but it complicates the evaluation of a player like Davison.
IronicGiven the Celtics’ struggles during the postseason, Davison often turned the ball around in the pick-and-roll. He finished the season with eight turnovers in a win against Tennessee and seven in a win against Drake, and his assist-to-turnover ratio for the season was 4.2/2.9 — which is pretty high and on on one hand the other side is much too high. He made 25 3-pointers but shot just 30.1 percent from deep and (worryingly) 72.8 percent from the free throw line. For all his clever passing and spring-loaded athleticism, his shot needs work.
“He’s 12 months away from graduating high school, right?” Stevens said. “So he played college basketball for a year at a very high level on a good team and with guys who were there and were good playmakers themselves. He’s had some incredible games, and he’s had some games where he looks like a rookie.
“Very young, very explosive, that’s pretty obvious. He has the ability to get in color and make plays and has some things that he needs to improve on, but he has a lot of physical tools.
Stevens added that the Celtics like Davison’s competitiveness and his on-court demeanor.
“We think he has a good feel for getting the ball out of his hands quickly and finding the right people, especially on spot-ups,” Stevens said. “He’s very selfless in that regard. But there are things he needs to improve on, as any 19-year-old would. But we look forward to helping him with that. That is our task.”
Ever the former college coach, Stevens (perhaps knee-jerkly) praised Alabama’s coaching staff.
“[Davison is] good competitor and obviously I think he played in a really good program for really good coaches,” Stevens said.
4. Davisons combine measurements were solid for a guard – 6ft 2.5in with a wingspan of 6ft 6.5in. Scouting Reports written down his engine and topside while questioning his jumper and high turnovers.
5. Stevens said Davison was one of two or three players the Celtics felt “pretty good” about as their election approached. Still, the team didn’t get a chance to train him, partly due to their own hectic schedule up until last week and partly due to Davison’s training schedule.
But Stevens – who said he is “very adept” at what Davison brings to the table – saw him live several times and attended a practice session in Alabama last season.
6. Stevens’ message to Davison seemed pretty specific: We believe in you and think we can develop you into an NBA player. Just don’t expect a lot of playing time right away.
The Celtics drafted Davison specifically because they have time to develop him into a rotation player, not because they expect him to play for minutes on a team still processing his Finals loss.
“Now it’s about him getting used to the NBA game,” Stevens said. “Apart from anything crazy here, there won’t be much pressure on him to come in and meet us right away or move the needle for us. He will be able to compete like everyone else for minutes.
“At the same time, he can grow, develop and focus his attention on improvement. I think that’s really an important place for a young player. We have a really good team.”
7. Davison will play for the Celtics’ summer league team, meaning Celtics fans will be able to see him for the first time in Las Vegas on July 7th. He will meet with the team for summer league training beforehand.
The Celtics’ development team will now aim to help a 19-year-old prepare for the NBA’s grind.
“It’s a big life moment for him and then in a few days you’re on a plane to Boston and a whole new place,” Stevens said. “How do we help him get off to a flying start?”
8. Juhann Begarin and Yam Madar will both also be on the team as the Celtics get an updated look at their draft and stash boys in a Summer League setting.
“A great time to discuss everything that’s coming after summer league after these guys are all here and they’ve all played and everyone’s competing in practice and everything else,” Stevens said. “There’s a lot of moving parts and a lot of roster flexibility and that doesn’t include anyone we bring in from the outside that we’re not even talking about tonight. So we’ll see how this all plays out.”
9. What about the Traded Player Exceptions (TPEs) the Celtics still have?
“Separating significant players on our team or blueprints that you can use with these TPEs with the trade deadline and things like that didn’t make a lot of sense,” Stevens said.
He added that the Celtics could also sign players for minimum contracts and the mid-level taxpayer exemption if they don’t use the TPEs now. TPEs expire a year after they are created, and the $17.1 million TPE created by Evan Fournier Sign-and-Trade last summer expires on July 18.
The Celtics have five other TPEs that expire during the season, ranging from $1.8 million to $6.9 million.
“If [the Fournier exception] disappears because we can’t find the right deal, we still have two other TPEs that we can use until the close,” Stevens said. “That was one of the things about that night: we wanted to make sure we were being smart with all of our future assets and not shifting our team without very, very obvious steps that would help us.”
This attitude could explain this tweet.
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