JD Davison wasn’t sure how NBA Draft Night would pan out, so he gathered with a small group of family and friends at his home in Alabama on June 23 and hoped for the best. There were some fearful moments as the second round sped by, but Davison said he was unaffected.
“I said to my family, ‘It’s going to happen. It’s coming,'” he said Tuesday. “And my agent finally called me, and it happened.”
The Celtics used their lone pick, No. 53 overall, to pick Davison. It was lower than the former McDonald’s All-American expected, but he acknowledged his lone season in Alabama didn’t quite go as planned.
He averaged 8.5 points, 4.8 rebounds and 4.3 assists while shooting 30.1 percent from the 3-point line. Davison said he believes college game congestion has held him back a bit and that he should be better positioned to succeed in the NBA, where ground clearance creates a cleaner canvas.
Crimson Tide coach Nate Oats said in a phone interview Tuesday that it was clear early in the season that Davison intended to move to the NBA no matter how his freshman year panned out.
“It was disappointing to see him fall [in the draft]’ said Hafer. “He didn’t have the best year to be honest. It’s the first time in his life that he has to actually compete for minutes and bring it every day. But he has a few advantages. He’s super athletic.”
Expectations were high for Alabama, who won 26 games and made the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 last season. But after climbing all the way to sixth in the national rankings, it stumbled down the track and finished 19-14.
Davison was recruited as the team’s floor general but only started in 5 of 33 games and never appeared as a voting leader. Oats said that during the pre-draft process, several NBA teams called with questions about why Davison was so quiet.
“I’m curious to see how much he opens up when he gets to know her [Celtics] Coaches and the team,” said Oats. “Until you meet him he’s super quiet and even once you get to know him he still doesn’t speak enough in my opinion. As a point guard, he needs to learn to speak a little more.”
Oats said Davison has excellent vision as a passer, but his ball handling needs refinement. At times, Oats said, defenders confused Davison during his dribbling, resulting in unusually flawed passes.
But Oats added that Davison’s athleticism and physical ability are impossible to ignore. He called his vertical jump “ridiculous” and said his dunks tended to be spectacular.
Oats recalled a sequence in a game against Houston when Davison had an acrobatic putback dunk followed by a similarly intriguing blocked shot. Davison was never afraid of a big moment, Oats said.
And while Davison is still learning how to play elite defense, his athleticism at least gives him the necessary tools.
“He has to show that he wants to be a great defender,” Oats said. “If he’s depending on him being a good defender to get on the ground, I think he’ll find that out. Being in the same organization as Marcus Smart is a good thing for him.”
Davison already seems to realize how much this franchise values those skills. When asked Tuesday what stands out about the Celtics, he didn’t hesitate to answer.
“I really have to play defense,” he said. “They have the best defense in the league.”
Davison said he is eager to learn from players like Smart and Malcolm Brogdon. And with so much backcourt talent ahead of Davison, he and the Celtics will be in no rush. This partnership is not forced.
“It’s a winning organization,” Davison said. “I knew I could come in here and get better every day. I was very pleased.”
Adam Himmelsbach can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @adamhimmelsbach.