Should Wizards take Bennedict Mathurin or Johnny Davis?

Should Wizards take Mathurin or Davis? originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington:

With the 10th overall pick in the upcoming 2022 NBA Draft, the Wizards may have to make a difficult choice between two players at the same position. We are going through those decisions in a series of articles, continuing with two shooting guards who could be on the board at 10: Bennedict Mathurin of Arizona and Wisconsin’s Johnny Davis.

The case for Bennedict Mathurin:

The first thing that stands out about Mathurin is his explosive athleticism. He is a freak athlete who went viral several times over during his two-year college career for poster dunks, the most memorable one a vicious slam against TCU in the NCAA Tournament. This guy is a highlight reel waiting to happen and, at 6-foot-6, has good size for a shooting guard, which could be his primary position at the next level.

Mathurin is also a good shooter. Not a great one, but definitely a good one. He shot 38.3% from 3-point range on 5.0 attempts per game in college. He made 121 threes on 316 total attempts, so he shot with efficiency and in volume. His shooting mechanics also pass the initial eye test. He has a smooth release and he has good lift on his jumper. He looks every bit the part of an NBA player when he comes off a screen and let it go.

Another element of Mathurin’s game worth noting is his competitive fire. He plays with a ton of energy and enthusiasm, which is on display after his rim-rattling dunks and on other plays like how he fights for rebounds against bigger players in the lane. He also made considerable improvements from his freshman year to his sophomore season, showing the upward trajectory whatever team drafts him will hope continues in the NBA.

What will determine his success at the next level is how he develops as a shot creator off-the-dribble and what he becomes as a defender, as he was not as consistent on that end as he was offensively in college. Teams will also need to take a close look at his feel for the game and basketball IQ, to make sure he can maximize his physical traits.

The case for Johnny Davis:

While it’s Mathurin’s ceiling that makes him an intriguing prospect, Davis appears to have a very high floor. He’s just a solid, smart player who impacts the game on both ends. On offense, he is a steady ball-handler with a good sense of timing and who has a knack for getting his defenders off balance. He operates like a professional when dissecting defenses in the halfcourt.

On defense, he has a high motor and a good feel for jumping passing lanes to find open space on the fastbreak. He’s also fairly quick at recovering even when his man gets past him off the dribble. And one of his best traits is his rebounding. He pulled down 8.2 boards per game last season at Wisconsin, a very high number for a guard.

Davis looks like a safe bet to have a long and successful NBA career. He’s probably going to translate quickly and someday soon be worthy of a rotation spot on a good team. He may be able to play both at point guard and shooting guard, while Mathurin is more of a two and three.

How good Davis can be in the NBA will depend a lot on how he improves as a shooter. He shot just 30.6% from three last season. He also isn’t overly explosive, so teams will have to evaluate whether he has the potential to be a star and something more than a starter or key bench piece. That said, if you’re in the Wizards’ range at the 10th overall pick, you can not necessarily expect to find a star. While that would be ideal, it’s far enough down the board where finding a legitimate starting-caliber player would be a win.

Best fit for the Wizards: Bennedict Mathurin:

Davis would be a safe pick and is exactly the type of player the Wizards seem to like in the draft. And that’s partly why Mathurin would be a better fit if they are choosing between the two. The Wizards have made some solid draft picks in three straight years with Rui Hachimura, Deni Avdija and Corey Kispert. But Mathurin has a higher athletic ceiling than those guys and the Wizards could use more young upside on their roster.

They need athleticism on the wing, they need outside shooting and they could use more players with the killer instinct mindset Mathurin appears to have. Whatever level of risk he would represent, the Wizards might be well-served by taking a chance on a potential star with the 10th pick. Shooting would also have to be a major consideration, given the Wizards were dead-last in the NBA in 3-pointers made last season. As good as Davis is and could be, they would be adding another low-percentage shooter to their rotation and at a position where shooting is essential.

Both Mathurin and Davis would overlap positionally with the Wizards’ best player, Bradley Beal. But the Wizards should arguably focus on taking the best player available over their short-term needs. That’s always a smart strategy in the NBA Draft, just look at the Warriors with Jordan Poole or the Blazers with Anfernee Simons.

Plus, Beal is going into his age-29 season. Mathurin, for instance, is 19 going on 20. He’s nine years younger than Beal, a gap wide enough where he could be the heir apparent in the backcourt and enter his prime right as Beal is exiting his own.

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