2022 NBA Draft: Could Johnny Davis be next in Cleveland Cavaliers’ pipeline from Team USA

CLEVELAND, Ohio — For the first time since 2018, the Cleveland Cavaliers are not picking in the top 5 of the NBA Draft. When a team holds the No. 14 pick — the last selection of the lottery — they aren’t in control of the outcome. There’s no Evan Mobley or Darius Garland coming. It’s not a small pool of prospects to choose from this year. Sources tell cleveland.com, the front office has about 10 players on their first-round radar, trying to identify the best combination of talent and fit.

The countdown is on. June 23 is fast approaching.

In the days leading up to the draft, cleveland.com will examine a handful of prospects that could realistically be in play with the 14th pick.

First up: Wisconsin shooting guard Johnny Davis

Bio:

2021-22 stats: 19.7 points, 8.2 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.2 steals, 42.7% FG, 30.6% 3P, 79.1% FT

Age: 20

Height: 6-5

Weight: 196

Wingspan: 6-8

Things to know:

Breakout star — A Wisconsin native who played alongside his twin brother, Davis was part of a veteran-heavy roster during his freshman season, causing a mundane start to his collegiate career. But with four of the top five scorers gone from the previous season, Davis nearly tripled his scoring average as a sophomore, becoming the focal point of the Badgers’ offense and being named Big Ten Player of the Year. Davis is the fourth player in school history to be named Big Ten Player of the Year, joining Devin Harris, Frank Kaminsky and Alando Tucker. All three were first-round picks.

Going Hollywood — Cashing in on his newfound fame, Davis is the star of Taco Bell’s latest commercial. In the “Toasted Cheddar Chalupa” ad, Davis is in Brooklyn for the draft, briefly looking down at his phone before hearing his name announced. He then walks up toward a knocked-over podium and hears a bell chime, making him think about a late-night dinner at Taco Bell. Instead of posing for photos, he walks off stage and exits the building, going straight to the fast food joint. Davis also has a promotional deal with Mountain Dew while serving as a brand ambassador for Jockey clothing company.

Golden summer — Davis averaged 4.1 points in the 2021 FIBA U19 World Cup, helping his team win the gold medal while playing alongside likely top 10 picks Jaden Ivey and Chet Holmgren.

Advanced stats — Even though the 3-point shot abandoned him for most of his sophomore campaign, Davis showed a deft post-up game and ability to attack off the dribble. Finishing with both hands, he averaged 1.20 points per shot around the rim in the half court, which ranked in the 66th percentile. He also scored 0.82 points per jump shot (53rd percentile). Davis drew 6.4 fouls per 40 minutes, ranking 23rd in the country. He attempted the fifth-most free throws in the Big Ten, generating around 25 percent of his points from the stripe.

About the fit:

President of basketball operations Koby Altman has close ties with USA Basketball. Part of the program years ago, Altman still maintains many of those relationships. Around draft time every year, Altman spends weeks gathering first-hand feedback from his USAB sources. In each of the last four years the player Cleveland drafted in the lottery — Collin Sexton, Darius Garland, Isaac Okoro and Evan Mobley — spent time with Team USA. Coincidence? Hardly. Each player was highly recommended from Team USA personnel.

Could Davis, who met with the Cavs at the scouting combine, continue that streak?

Given he’s considered a “safe” pick with a high floor, there’s a strong chance Davis isn’t on the board at 14. But he also doesn’t possess the same upside teams usually want from a lottery pick. That could lead to a draft-night slide.

If Davis is available for the Cavs, they will give him a long look — even though he’s not an ideal fit.

Drawing comparisons to Portland’s Josh Hart, Davis is more of a 2 than a 3. He occupies Cleveland’s deepest position, where Caris LeVert, Sexton (if he returns in restricted free agency) and Okoro are standing in his path for consistent playing time. In past years, that might not have mattered. The Cavs didn’t allow positional fit to drive their decision-making. But coming off a 44-win season and heading into 2022-23 with playoff aspirations, the Cavs must consider how a prospect blends into the fabric of their roster. Davis would still be a justifiable selection. His toughness, driving, slashing and shot-making would give Cleveland’s uneven offense a needed jolt — a two-point, mid-range weapon capable of taking some of the scoring burden off Garland. Choosing Davis would also provide a nice insurance policy in case offseason contract talks with either Sexton or LeVert don’t go well.

What they’re saying:

Davis — “Those shooting percentages don’t represent me. I could have shot better from the free-throw line and from 3, especially. I thought late in the season I took a lot more contested shots. I also think later in the season teams started to key in on me a lot more because of the success I was having earlier in the season.”

Jonathan Wasserman, Bleacher Report, NBA Draft Analyst — “I doubt he’s available at 14. Even though his limited 3-ball might impact his scoring potential as a rookie, that combination of size, shot-making, fearlessness, aggressiveness and defensive tenacity should lead to him being a valuable contributor.”

Team USA official — “He is a player who does all the little things well. Plays hard. Great teammate. Makes teammates better. He stood out because of the different level he played at in terms of toughness, reliability and basketball IQ. He has made a tremendous jump over the course of his college career. He’s more confident. He has shown he can play with the top players in the country. It has surprised me a little bit the level he’s already attained with his basketball ability. But he’s a great kid who knows how to play and play hard.

“We had Chet and Jaden Ivey. During the training camp, Johnny was one of our top players, maybe our best player. There’s just a commitment to playing hard. He may not be as talented as some of these other guys, but you know what you’re going to get every day. He is going to show up the same way every day. I’ve been on the phone with every scout, general manager, assistant GM and coach in the league about these players. There are a lot of guys who might be better skill-wise that aren’t going to become as good as Johnny because they aren’t going to spend the time working. I think long term Johnny will be better than Ivey. I think Johnny is a starting-caliber shooting guard at the next level.”

Scout — “Really good kid. Gym rat. Puts in the time. His shooting has improved a ton over the last year even if the numbers don’t show that. He is more of a scorer than a shooter, but he needs to be guarded out there.”

Eastern Conference executive — “I think Johnny will be a top 10 pick. I would be a little surprised if he is available to Cleveland. If he is, that would be a great choice.”

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