Here are nine things to know about JD Davison, the Celtics’ newest draft pick.
1. Early Thursday evening, the Celtics made their intentions for draft night fairly clear.
In other words, don’t expect fireworks. The team that made a run to the NBA Finals isn’t breaking its pace by dealing a rotation player just to move up in the draft.
“The costs for moving up was just too, too much for where we are,” Celtics president of basketball operations Brad Stevens said.
2. Still, the Celtics picked up an interesting player in Davison. He rose to prominence as a high-school star in Alabama, where he averaged 32.4 points and 10.9 rebounds per game as a senior. He posted a 29-point, 14-rebound, 11-assist, 11-steal quadruple-double. As a junior, he led Calhoun High School in Letohatchee to the Class 2A title and buried the game-winning 3-pointer as time expired to claim the title.
The next year, Davison and Calhoun returned to the semifinals but lost to Midfield despite a 45-point outburst by Davison.
Davison’s explosiveness and play-making earned him high-level offers, and he rose through the recruiting ranks quickly. By the time he was a senior, he was a 5-star athlete on Rivals, 24/7 Sports and ESPN. ESPN gave him a 94 prospect rating and ranked him 15th overall in the country. He came from a small school of fewer than 200 students, but he was nationally regarded as one of the best prospects in the country when he went to Alabama as a freshman.
3. Davison struggled in college. That’s normal for a talented player from a small school going Division I for the first time, but it makes evaluating a player like Davison more complicated.
Ironically, given the Celtics’ struggles during the postseason, Davison turned the ball over often in the pick-and-roll. He finished with eight turnovers in a win over Tennessee and seven in a win over Drake and his assist-to-turnover ratio for the season was 4.2/2.9 — which is reasonably high on one side and much too high on the other. He made 25 3-pointers but shot just 30.1 percent from deep and (worryingly) 72.8 percent from the free-throw line. For all of his clever passing and spring-loaded athleticism, his shot needs work.
“He’s 12 months removed from high school graduation, right?” Stevens said. “So he’s played one year of college basketball at a very high level on a good team, and with guys that were there who were good playmakers in their own right. He had some incredible games, and he had some games where he looked like a freshman.
“Very young, very explosive, that’s pretty obvious. He has the ability to get inside the paint and make plays and has some things that he’ll have to improve on, but has a lot of physical tools.”
Stevens added that the Celtics like Davison’s competitiveness and demeanor on the court.
“We do think he has a good feel as far as getting the ball out of his hands quickly and finding the right people, especially on spot-ups,” Stevens said. “He’s very unselfish in that regard. But there are things he has to improve, as any 19-year-old would be. But we’re looking forward to helping him do that. That’s our task.”
Ever the former college coach, Stevens (perhaps reflexively) praised Alabama’s coaching staff.
“[Davison is] good competitor and obviously, I think, played in a really good program for really good coaches,” Stevens said.
4. Davison’s combine measurements were solid for a guard — 6-foot-2.5-inches with a 6-foot-6.5-inch wingspan. Scouting reports noted his motor and upside while questioning his jumper and his high turnovers.
5. Stevens said Davison was one of two or three players the Celtics felt “pretty good about” as their pick neared. Still, the team hadn’t gotten a chance to work him out, partly due to their own hectic schedule until last week and partly due to Davison’s workout schedule.
But Stevens — who said he was “well-versed” in what Davison brings to the table — saw him several times live and attended an Alabama practice last season.
6. Stevens’s message to Davison seemed fairly specific: We believe in you and think we can develop you into an NBA player. Just don’t expect a lot of playing time right away.
The Celtics drafted Davison specifically because they have time to try to develop him into a rotation player, not because they expect him to compete for minutes on a team still processing its defeat in the Finals.
“Now, it’s about making it so that he gets accustomed to the NBA game,” Stevens said. “Barring anything crazy here, he’s not going to have a ton of pressure to come in and impact us right away or move the needle for us. He’ll be able to compete for minutes just like anybody else.
“At the same time, he can grow, develop, focus his attention on improving. I think that’s really an important place to be for a young player. We’ve got a really good team.”
7. Davison is going to play on the Celtics’ summer league team, which means Celtics fans will get their first look at him on July 7 in Las Vegas. He’ll meet up with the team for Summer League practice prior.
For the Celtics’ development staff, the goal will now be to help a 19-year-old get ready for the grind of the NBA.
“This is a big life moment for him, and then in a couple of days you’re on a plane in Boston and in a whole new place,” Stevens said. “How do we help him really start off on the right foot?”
8. Juhann Begarin and Yam Madar will both be on the team as well, as the Celtics get an updated look at their draft-and-stash guys in a Summer League setting.
“A great time to discuss all that is after summer league after these guys are all here and they all played and they all compete in practice and everything else,” Stevens said. “There’s a lot of moving parts and there’s a lot of roster flexibility and that doesn’t include anybody else that we bring in from the outside that we aren’t even talking about tonight. So we’ll see how that all shakes itself out.”
9. What about the traded player exceptions (TPEs) the Celtics still have?
“Parting with significant players on our team or sharing with draft assets that you can use with these TPEs with the trade deadline and those types of things didn’t make much sense,” Stevens said.
He added that the Celtics could also sign players to minimum deals and the taxpayer midlevel exception if they don’t use the TPEs now. TPEs expire a year after they are created, and the $17.1 million TPE created by the Evan Fournier sign-and-trade last summer expires on July 18.
The Celtics have five other TPEs that expire during the season ranging from $1.8 to $6.9 million.
“If [the Fournier exception] vanishes because we don’t find the right deal, we still have two other TPEs to use towards the trade deadline,” Stevens said. “That was one of the things about tonight: We wanted to make sure we were smart about all of our future assets and not shifting our team without very, very obvious moves that would help us.”
That attitude might explain this tweet.
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