In 2006 a skinny shooter arrived on the campus of Davidson College having been passed up by bigger schools including his father’s alma-mater Virginia Tech. He would go on to set the freshman record for 3’s in a season, then the overall record for 3’s made in a season, as well as lead Davidson on the brink of the final four in his sophomore season. Stephen Curry is now a household name, and has won 3 of the last 4 championships with the Warriors including two mvp awards. Even after those accomplishments, Curry was selected at #7 overall. This is the list of the players chosen before him: Blake Griffin, Hasheem Thabeet, James Harden, Tyreke Evans, Ricky Rubio, and Johnny Flynn. Do you think some of those teams want a re-draft? The biggest problem with Curry not going until #7 is that the NBA teams used the same logic that the big time schools used in evaluating whether or not his skills could translate at the next level. Curry put out a commercial bringing to light some of the things that were said about him as a draft prospect, click the link below to watch it. The best and most ironic statement with hindsight from the video is “He will have limited success at the next level”
Obviously scouts got it very wrong with Curry going at #7, but the question after the fact is how do you evaluate players that are similar to Curry? There is not an easy answer. Players like Jimmer Fredette did not stick in the league, but Curry has helped changed the game to the point that you have to consider a great shooter regardless of the flaws they may posses. The attributes that Curry needed to improve on could be honed through hard work and repetition, but his shot is something that had been groomed over his entire life. These are some of the same things being said about Antoine Davis.
At the beginning of this season, there were two people who had no doubt that a skinny incoming freshman named Antoine Davis would be putting up numbers at Detroit-Mercy. Kelvin Sampson, who recruited Davis to Houston is one, with the second being his father and current coach which led to Davis de-committing from Houston to head to Detroit. Davis the player has admitted he did not forecast having so much success this early, but his un-orthodox basketball upbringing has much to do with it. Playing sparingly for one season with the Houston Hoops AAU program, being home-schooled and not playing much high school basketball at all, meant the big schools passed on Davis. He trained every morning with John Lucas, and regularly competed against college level competition in pick up games or practices. Since arriving on campus, Davis has been a shooting and scoring machine, dropping 32 in his first collegiate game. All of this information put together has led to one of the most difficult players for NBA scouts to analyze.
Neither Curry nor Davis played much AAU, and they did not play high school basketball against top competition. Both players come from well known families within the basketball world, and have been trained by some of the best in the business. The similarities continue with their playing style, and that both came into college needing to add a large amount of weight.
Below are Davis’ stats from this season compared to Stephen Curry’s stats at Davidson, as well as Trae Young’s freshman season for reference.
The fact that Davis is taking almost 12 3 pointers could be considered a direct result of the impact that Curry has had on the game. Davis will soon break Curry’s record for 3 pointers as a freshman, and he has a chance to pass Curry for the most 3 pointers in a season for any year although that is not probable at this point. Curry’s junior year consisted mostly of being double and triple teamed at times, so his shooting percentages dropped in that year.
Given all of the statistically information, why is Antoine Davis not considered a top draft prospect? The first answer to that question is time. Teams needed to see Curry do it for multiple seasons, and even then he was told to come back to school and show that he could play as a true point guard. The same is true for Davis, although he is more of a true point than Curry was as a freshman. The next question mark is his size. Curry’s strength was always questioned but at 6’3″ with a 6’4″ wingspan he had plenty of size to play the position at the NBA level, while Davis stands at 6’1″ 170 lbs. The number one thing that scouts need to be focusing on whether or not they believe Davis can create and get his shot off against NBA level defense. This could be the case in a few years, but we won’t know for sure until there is more tape on Davis against top level college competition. Davis does not possesses great vertical ability by NBA standards but if your shot is quick enough you can overcome this. He also needs to continue to improve on his shot selection, but that can be a tough task when playing for a team that needs you to score 30 every night to be competitive. He has shown the potential to be an effective passer and ball-handler, and there is no problem with speed from end to end. His ability to defend at his size will always be in question, and he will need to improve on that. All of these questions will be answered over the next couple of seasons, but it sounds eerily similar to the play Davis is about to pass in the record books.
If Davis can continue to shoot at an elite level for multiple seasons, while proving to become more of a point guard and passer, he should not be taken lightly by scouts and NBA gm’s. With their playing style being similar, Davis and Curry are going to be linked throughout the draft process whenever Davis decides to go pro.