It seems as if a lot of people have their minds made up about Johnny Davis despite not even having watched the game. That's a shame because I don't think seeing someone's field goal percentage from a box score is reflective of his actual performance.
There was definitely some "bad" last night but they were pretty typical rookie things and, on balance, there was more "good." As a seasoned G League watcher, I thought it was a pretty typical debut performance for both and the Go-Go.
For reference, Davis recorded 13 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocks, and a steal. He shot 3-13 from the field and 1-4 from three, with two turnovers. But let's dive a little deeper into his performance and provide some context for these numbers.
1) He shook off a slow start and looked increasingly more comfortable as the game went out. The turnovers happened relatively early but he was more secure with the ball as the night went on. He also ratcheted up his defensive intensity with each minute he was on the floor.
2) He was legitimately the best defender on the court last night. He already knows how to pressure someone without fouling and how to contest a jumpshot by strictly using his length and not reaching. His Wizards teammates could take notes.
The overall team defense was best with Davis on the court. When the team squandered most of their 20-plus point lead, Davis was on the bench. He might already be the best weakside shot-blocking guard we've had since John Wall.
3) He was not the timid player we saw in his Wizards moments. He picked his spots to try and attack the rim, which resulted in several trips to the free-throw line. Given the way he looked on his Wizards' minutes, I think it's actually a positive that he was willing to shoot 13 times.
4) When his feet were set, like on the three-pointer he made to end the game, his shot looked good. To me, this seems similar to Corey Kispert's early-season shooting struggles. The trajectory of their shot results in them coming up short too often. Kispert seemed to adjust so hopefully the same happens for Davis. I'm not saying he's a shooting specialist but he's also not this bad of a shooter either.
5) He wasn't shooting well but found other ways to impact the game. He grabbed a couple of tough rebounds, moved the ball effectively, and helped his teammates from the weak side.
6) He didn't pout or sulk even though he was missing shots. He appeared calm yet confident throughout.
1) He was loose with the ball early. Twice he got by a defender and they poked the ball away with a reach-around-steal. This is easily correctable by simply switching hands after you pass the defender and not something he had an issue with in college when advancing the ball.
It looked as if he was still thinking too much and not just playing. On a night when the Go-Go lost because of too many turnovers, Davis was far from the biggest offender and he seemed to course-correct as the night went on.
2) He was short on almost every shot he missed. Not great that he missed that many shots but I'd rather see someone missing long or short rather than off to the side. Although, he did take one wild three-point attempt that missed off to the side.
3) There were two instances where he seemed surprised by the length or athleticism when challenging the rim. Rookies usually struggle finishing around the basket so not a surprise but ideally something they continue to work with him on.
The Big Ten isn't the most athletic of the major conferences and usually features bigger ground-bound bigs. Davis had one of his floaters swatted into PG County and seemed a bit surprised by it. To be fair, I'm pretty convinced it was a goaltend but hopefully, that moment sticks with Davis in future situations.
4) He’s going to have to keep working on his body, another trait true of most rookies. In college, Davis was good about using pace, strength, and angles to get to the basket. Getting stronger will help him finish around the basket and be stronger with the ball.
The reaction to Davis in a game most people didn’t even watch was pretty ugly. It was just not a good look from us as a fanbase. I get the frustration with the front office, I’m probably as critical of them as anyone (including questioning the Davis pick in the first place). But Davis isn’t going anywhere, no matter how many times people tweet the worst “bust” without watching him. We’re better than that.
I know he’s a pro athlete but he’s also a person. Maybe some support and a little patience might yield better results. I know I’d be a little more energized to play for a fanbase if I didn’t think they hated me.
Overall, I was encouraged by last night's performance by Davis. He wasn't dominating the court but he looked like a perfectly capable young player who didn't get shaken even though his shots weren't falling. It seems pretty clear he needs work on his jumpshot so I'm more interested in seeing him impact the game in other ways and not get rattled when he isn't making shots. He accomplished both things last night.
This was his first time playing major minutes last night and there's probably some amount of rust that needs to be shaken off. Going from no volume to pretty considerable volume might take a few games.
Also, it was reported by Josh Robbins of The Athletic that Davis' minutes are capped right now because he's been playing and practicing with both teams and they want to slowly ramp up his activity. He actually played slightly more than the recommended minutes last night.
The minutes recommendation is 24 minutes tonight and 24 minutes tomorrow. https://t.co/kMJbvCamhA— Josh Robbins (@JoshuaBRobbins) November 5, 2022
It's also worth noting that he has limited experience playing with his Go-Go teammates so more reps should likely help him look more comfortable as time goes on. And for anyone complaining about him not starting, the team seemed intent on leaving their pre-established backcourt together.
I'm not reporting this but the team may have already made promises to certain players about playing time and starting spots to get them back on the roster this season. I would not read too much into his coming off the bench. Let's focus on the fact that he looks more aggressive and we can see if and how he continues to improve.
As for his teammates, I thought the big men stood out the most. Vernon Carey Jr. looked like a man amongst boys and displayed a smooth shooting stroke that was somewhat surprising to me. He had 21 points, 10 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 block, and 2 turnovers. He shot 9-13 from the field and 2-2 from three.
Isaiah Todd didn't have the best shooting night, going 3-7 from the field and 1-4 from three. But he was very active and showed the defensive versatility and switchability that they want to see from him. He routinely moved his feet on the perimeter and forced guards to go away from the matchup rather than trying to shoot over him or get around him.
Makur Maker was the most pleasant surprise. He had 10 points, 5 rebounds, 1 block, and 3 turnovers. At least one of those turnovers came off from him failing to catch a very difficult pass. Otherwise, I was impressed by his ability to run the floor at his size. He went 2-4 from three and his jumpshot looked fluid. I expect him to continue to space the floor this season.
Their guards all had positive moments, especially defensively, but in general, they were sloppy with the ball and fouled too much. Devon Dotson had 8 points, 7 rebounds, 11 assists, 3 turnovers, and 5 fouls. Craig Sword had 9 points, 5 rebounds, 4 turnovers, and 3 fouls.
Off the bench, Kris Dunn had 9 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 4 turnovers, and 5 fouls. Davion Mintz, a rookie out of Kentucky, had 10 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 turnovers, and 1 foul.
Quenton Jackson was hard to take your eyes off of as he displayed elite athleticism. He was 6-10 from the field and 0-2 from 3. The jumpshot looked similarly off like Davis's but he was able to get out in transition more and had several spectacular finishes.
He didn't provide much else beyond scoring and he will definitely need to gain strength to improve defensively. But in general, I thought he had a good first game. And he's going to be worth the price of admission this season.
And with that, a shameless reminder that we will be hosting a live recording of the Bleav in Wizards podcast at the Capital City Go-Go game on December 9th. Tickets are discounted at the link below so for $10 you can pick any seat on the 100s level. And for $40 you can get unlimited beer and/or wine and still sit anywhere. After the game, we will record a podcast from the arena. We’ll have several guests, hear from some Wizards / Go-Go fans, and give away some cool prizes. We hope to see you there!
The Wizards get a rematch with Raptors 905 at 3 p.m. EST on Sunday.