Let’s address the elephant in the room: Johnny Davis has been struggling. Through two preseason games, he has not made a field goal in 48 minutes of playing time and has gone a collective 0-for-12.
It is important to remember that shooting struggles are incredibly common among rookies, especially those used to the slower and more methodical pace of the college game. Before writing Davis off or adding to the pressure he is certainly facing adjusting to the NBA, let’s cut him some slack — two preseason games are not a tell-all sign of a player’s career.
Even if his struggles continue into the regular season, he is still only 20 years old with tons of room to grow. Countless great NBA players struggled to start their careers, and some even looked like they were on the way out of the league before bouncing back. Let’s take a look at some of those players to help us stay optimistic about Davis:
Jordan Poole’s rookie year was one of the least productive seasons in NBA history by a high-usage player. In just under 23 minutes a night, Poole averaged 8.8 points, 2.1 rebounds and 2.4 assists while shooting a putrid 33% from the field and 28% from three-point range.
In his second season, Poole improved to a solid bench player before blossoming in year 3 to become an 18.5 points per game scorer on a championship team. Poole was a huge part of the Golden State Warriors’ 2022 championship, as he brought instant offense off the bench and timely shots while also becoming a decently efficient high-volume scorer.
In the pantheon of players who struggled early in their careers, Chauncey Billups has to be the model for bouncing back. As a rookie, Billups struggled so much that he was traded at the deadline, then traded again at season’s end. Billups would be traded again the following year before finally finding a solid role on the Minnesota Timberwolves by his fourth season.
Billups would go on to become a five-time All Star with the Detroit Pistons and Denver Nuggets, and he even won a championship and Finals MVP with the former.
Steve Nash is one of the greatest point guards to ever play basketball, and his game aged like a fine wine as his career progressed. That wine was not so fine for the first four years of his career. Nash, a famed double-double machine, did not crack double-digit points or six-plus assists until his fifth season in the NBA.
Nash is the epitome of a late bloomer. Everything he is known for — his shooting, his passing, his playmaking — all developed slowly over the first half-decade of his career until he finally broke out in the 2000-01 season.
For most of his career, Jimmy Butler has been the heart and soul of every team he’s suited up for. That was not the case at the start of his career. During his rookie year, Butler scored just 2.6 points per game on 40% from the field and an abysmal 18% from three. The now-famous playoff performer didn’t even score in his first playoffs.
Over time, Butler evolved into one of the NBA’s best defensive players and then developed even further into one of the league’s best two-way players. Today, Butler is a perennial All Star who looks nothing like the benchwarmer he was at the start of his career.
I’m not saying that Johnny Davis will develop into a Steve Nash-caliber player. I’m not even saying he will develop into a Jordan Poole-caliber player. All I am pointing out is that early struggles are not always indicative of poor careers.
It is important to allow Davis the time and reps to develop into the high-upside volume scorer he can become. Let the kid figure it out!