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Badgers in the NBA: we ask an NBA Draft expert about Johnny Davis

Ricky O’Donnell, who covers the NBA Draft for the mothership, stopped by to discuss future first round draft pick Johnny Davis.

Wisconsin v Purdue Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images

The Wisconsin Badgers men’s basketball program hasn’t been known as an NBA Draft Pick Factory in, uh, well, the entire history of the university, but this year they should have a player picked in the top half of the first round! Sophomore wing Johnny Davis entered the draft early and most experts are expecting him to go in the lottery,

We wanted to go a little deeper on Davis’ draft stock, so we asked our pal Ricky O’Donnell, the SB Nation NBA Draft guru, for his opinion on Davis, the rest of the Badgers roster and what other Big Ten players might have a great NBA career from this year’s draft class.

In your most recent mock draft (linked above), released after the lottery, you have Davis going to the Washington Wizards. Why do you think he’s a good fit in Washington?

There’s an easy argument to make that Davis would be both the best fit and best overall talent available if he’s still there at No. 10. The Wizards simply don’t have any quality guards on the roster after Bradley Beal. Davis feels like a natural fit next to Beal because he’s a bigger, defensive-minded guard who could check the tougher matchup, while still providing some of the off-the-dribble scoring juice Washington lost when they traded Russell Westbrook.

Washington Wizards v Memphis Grizzlies
Future Johnny Davis teammate Bradley Beal???
Photo by Justin Ford/Getty Images

Washington’s point of attack defense was poor last season, and that’s one area where I think Davis can immediately help. The Wizards already have some quality shooters on the wing in Beal, Kyle Kuzma, KCP (Kentavious Caldwell-Pope), and Kristaps Porzingis, and I like the idea of Davis using his 1-on-1 scoring ability on a spaced floor. If I was running the Wizards, I’d be praying for Davis to fall to No. 10.

In terms of range where he might be picked, most mocks we’ve seen have him in the back half of the lottery. What other teams do you think will take a look at Davis and where else could he fit?

Davis should start drawing looks as early as the Pelicans at No. 8. New Orleans will have to decide if they want a guard who specializes in shooting (Arizona’s Bennedict Mathurin) or defense with Davis. I can see the argument for either of them, but I do think the defense there is worrisome with another poor defender in Zion Williamson set to return.

NCAA Basketball: Purdue at Wisconsin
Good point of attack defense by Davis against another potential Big Ten first round draft pick, Jaden Ivey.
Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

New Orleans finished No. 24 in three point rate and No. 27 in three point percentage last year (two other areas Williamson won’t help) so Davis would need to shoot the ball better than he did in college to really help them. I think he can do that.

While he *probably* won’t last to No. 14, the Cavs would also be a great fit. They have a small lead guard in Darius Garland and are likely losing Collin Sexton in free agency. Davis’ size and two-way skill set would be a blessing for them.

What do you think is Davis’ most translatable skill to the next level? What should he spend the most time working on this summer to improve?

I think his on-ball defense is his most translatable skill. I think he needs to work to become a better three-point shooter off the catch.

Who in this draft class from the Big Ten do you see having the best NBA career?

I’m a big Jaden Ivey guy, so I’ll go with him. Just please keep him away from the Kings!

Are there any players on Wisconsin’s roster next year that you think could get drafted in the coming years?

My snap judgement is that there’s not another NBA player on the roster currently. Wisconsin hasn’t had a player drafted since Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker in 2015, so it’s not typically a program that annually produces NBA talent. That said, I’m excited to see what point guard Chucky Hepburn can do with a bigger role next season.