Wizards take Johnny Davis with 10th pick of NBA draft


Wizards take Johnny Davis with 10th pick of NBA draft

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

So with Thursday’s 10th pick, Washington may have gotten a player who both supports an area of ​​need and has the qualities Sheppard was looking for. The Wizards selected Johnny Davis, a 6-foot-5, 194-pound guard whom Sheppard and Coach Wes Unseld Jr. see as a high-IQ goalscorer with a defensive zeal.

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 played mostly as a small forward for the Badgers, but Sheppard is so confident in both Davis’ grip and basketball know-how that he thinks the 20-year-old could switch back and forth between point guard and shooting guard.

“Out on the parquet 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, character and athleticism,” Sheppard said. “I think he’s an underrated passer – I’ll go on to say he’s a great passer. He didn’t pass much in college, so I’m trying to subtly encourage him to pass a little more. But I think he’ll be able to score on different levels. I think it’s excellent.”

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

“I feel like the only thing you can really understand is if you have a twin brother or a twin sister,” Davis said on a conference call, “who just want to be better than the other.”

Goals aside, Unseld is most excited about Davis defending. The coach was impressed with Davis’ ability to design defensive plays on demand during the 20-year-old’s interview process with the Wizards — Davis coached for the team on June 2.

“The fact that he’s taking that side is an important part – you’re giving yourself a chance. He seems like a very intellectual player,” Unseld said. “A guy who’s going to do his homework has to be tactically disciplined, which is what we’re trying to achieve. But I think he will choose [defense] up quickly. When you have those two intangibles, you really give yourself an opportunity to be among the elite in this field.”

Bradley Beal rehabilitating his wrist and a local basketball court

Though Sheppard sees Davis as a potential ball handler, his selection likely won’t impact Washington’s quest for a permanent point guard solution. The Wizards don’t want to entrust point guard duties to a rookie, and Sheppard said Thursday that Washington would be happy to have three ballhandlers on the court at once.

The general manager may also have considered the fact that while the ideal version of a point guard for him and Unseld is a more traditional floor general who prioritizes organizing offense and passing goals, traditional point guards are becoming rarer.

“We’re going to try to have three ball handlers out there, we’re going to try to keep it really wide open if you have the time [Kristaps Porzingis] and [Bradley Beal], skilled scorers. You put [Kyle Kuzma] out there, [Kentavious Caldwell-Pope] out there now you got Johnny another guy who can fill it up a little. I’m excited to do that,” Sheppard said. “The fact that [Davis] is a good rebounder that enhances some of the other things we’ve come to expect from him. 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 No. 54 pick.

The Wizards can now move to the top of their to-do list: re-signing Beal. The guard, who turns 29 on Tuesday, is set to sign a five-year deal worth about $250 million next month after a season cut short by a left wrist injury.

Sheppard hailed Beal as a worthy franchise centerpiece in a news conference on Monday and said he expects to be in tip-top shape by the time training camp opens in Washington in September. The Wizards will then travel to Japan for a couple of preseason games.

“I just look at the player and I know that’s someone to build your franchise around,” Sheppard said. “I know he has a great season ahead of him. where he is right now [in his rehab] is not where he will be in a month and in two months as we prepare to go to Japan I think he will be in full swing in terms of his shot.

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