This is purely speculation and not reporting, but I can’t see Wizards’ rookie Johnny Davis spending significant time in the G League. There’s no track record to support the Wizards sending a first-round pick to the G League and Tommy Sheppard has made comments in the past about not drafting players in the lottery to have them spend time in the G League.
No matter how rough Davis has looked to this point, the Wizards are going to give him plenty of opportunities to show they didn’t make a mistake by taking him with the 10th pick. Yes, playing more minutes against professional players may help him adjust to the speed of the NBA game. However, spending time around his Wizards teammates, many of whom are seasoned veterans at this point, could prove even more valuable. At least in Year 1.
Because Davis doesn’t have blow-by speed or athleticism, he’s going to have to rely on his brain to create advantages for himself. Spending time around players like Monte Morris, who aren’t elite athletes either, will allow him to pick their brains and learn the little tricks that have helped them be successful.
Kyle Kuzma has spoken glowingly about his time learning from Rajon Rondo and how Rondo taught him how to watch film most effectively. That’s what Davis needs to learn and he’s not going to do so while on a road trip to play the College Park Skyhawks.
Sometimes a redshirt year to just watch and learn is more effective than the extra playing time. Especially for someone like Davis whose confidence could really take a hit if he struggled against G League competition early on.
Every former or current player that we’ve had as a guest on the Bleav in Wizards podcast has talked about how essential confidence is to performance. I can’t imagine sending the Big 10 Players of the Year and 10th overall pick to the G League would be good for his confidence. Letting him learn in a no-pressure setting and giving him NBA minutes when possible seems like the more likely development track for Davis.
Davis didn’t take a real redshirt year as a freshman at Wisconsin but he also wasn’t asked to do a lot, coming off the bench the entire season to average 7 points in 24 minutes per game. Easing Davis into his NBA career in a similar way seems like a reasonable approach. He’s already shown in college that he will put in the work to level-up once he better understands what’s expected of him.
Rui Hachimura and Deni Avdija both started their first NBA games. I can’t see that for Davis and I doubt he even finds himself as integral to the roster as Corey Kispert did last year. If I had to guess, I think Davis’ rookie season will look more similar to that of Troy Brown Jr. Brown Jr. played in 52 games, starting 10 of them, and averaged 14 minutes per game. In those minutes, he recorded 4.8 points, 2,8 rebounds, and 1.5 assists.
With COVID-19 still a potential issue that could force players to miss games this season, Davis might find himself thrown into the fire at some point. I was pleased with this defensive effort in the first two preseason games and that seems like his most likely route to NBA minutes. I could see an old-school coach like Wes Unseld Jr. rewarding a player who competes on defense with playing time, if only to prove a point to other players who aren’t putting in maximum effort on that side of the ball.
Even if keeping him with the Wizards wasn’t arguably what’s best for Davis, the front office might feel it’s what’s best for them. Sending the 10th pick to the G League for anything longer than a cup of coffee would not be great optics. Especially for a Team President and General Manager with a questionable drafting record.
I’m not implying that Tommy Sheppard and company wouldn’t do what’s best for the player. However, if there’s a defensible argument for keeping Davis with the Wizards throughout, it also seems like it would be in their best interest as well.
Rather than panicking about whether or not Davis is already a total bust, I’d like to advocate for patience. Kispert struggled in Summer League and took a few months to really look like a contributor. That could very easily be the case for Davis as well.