Wizards rookie Johnny Davis' NBA debut a small step to build on

Johnny Davis' NBA debut a small step to build on originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

WASHINGTON -- Not all debuts in professional sports are created equal and for Johnny Davis, the 10th overall pick this past June, his was about as uneventful as they get. It was the Wizards' 4th game of the season and by the time he checked in, the team had secured a blowout victory over the Pistons. Head coach Wes Unseld Jr. emptied his bench and that opened the door for Davis.

It amounted to a very small step toward where Davis will someday hope to go, but he had to start somewhere. Those with more NBA experience on the Wizards hope he builds off of his brief 1st stint.

"It's tough. At the end of the game, you've been sitting for 46 or 47 minutes," head coach Wes Unseld Jr. said. "But take advantage of those minutes. I think he's gonna be really good. He has the opportunity to get out there and hopefully as he works his way through this we stay healthy, but there will be opportunities for him to get minutes."

Davis is waiting his turn to a degree most rookies picked as high as he was do not. He has played the 2nd-fewest minutes so far of any player selected in the top-13 picks of the 2022 NBA Draft. The only one who has played fewer is Chet Holmgren, who is out for the season due to a foot injury.

Last season, Corey Kispert had to practice patience before he cracked the Wizards' rotation by way of injuries. But even if he played more to this point.

Davis, 20, struggled in the Summer League and in the preseason. He also has to work around considerable depth at his position. Bradley Beal, the Wizards' starting shooting guard, said after Tuesday's win over Detroit, that the team has "easily" the most shooting guard depth since he was drafted in 2012.

When Beal left Tuesday's game for an extended stretch with a back injury, the Wizards turned to veteran Will Barton. He scored 13 points in the second quarter and helped Washington build a commanding lead.

They still didn't need Davis to play, even though Beal was out and Kispert remains sidelined with a left ankle sprain. But Beal was happy to see Davis get on the floor for the 1st time and hopes he can capitalize on even the smallest windows of opportunity.

"Shoot the ball. If you get in the game, be aggressive and shoot the ball. Understand his time will come and when it comes, he's gotta be ready to go and be hungry because a lot of guys are hungry, a lot of guys that want to play," Beal said.

"Our depth is crazy. You've gotta seize it. This league is kind of selfish in a lot of ways. You've gotta go out, compete and make a name for yourself and earn your minutes. That's what he's gotta do and we're going to continue to push him to do that."

Like Beal, Deni Avdija didn't have to wait as Davis has. He was the Wizards' 1st round pick in 2020 and played his way into the starting lineup to begin his rookie season.

He would later face plenty of adversity, with an inconsistent role in the rotation and numerous injuries, but Avdija feels he can relate, at least to an extent.

When Davis was about to check in for his debut, Avdija gave him some advice in passing.

"Before I came out, he subbed me out. I just told him play with confidence. I know it's not easy your first year in the league. I remember my 1st year in the league, coming in and it's not easy," Avdija said.

"You compare me to Johnny, it's not really fair because I played professionally since I was 16. Johnny played college for a minute and I feel like it's a harder transition for sure. I just know he's a hard worker, he's going to stick to it, he's a good guy, so that's the most important thing. He's a good person. I think the sky is the limit for him."

Before Tuesday's game, Unseld Jr. said Davis could "potentially" spend some time with the Capital City Go-Go of the G-League this season. The Go-Go are the Wizards' G-League affiliate, but they play their games at the Wizards' practice facility, so it's easy to send players up and down.

The last Wizards' 1st round pick to play for the Go-Go was Troy Brown Jr., their 2018 selection. None of their last three picks before Davis has gone to the G-League. Kispert, however, was initially scheduled to play for them before injuries at the NBA level changed the Wizards' plans.

If Davis does go there, he will get many more minutes and shots as he continues to tune his game. As Beal said, his time will come sooner or later.