Is Alabama basketball's JD Davison NBA-ready? Why that's the wrong question | Goodbread

Chase Goodbread
The Tuscaloosa News

All but one of the following were April Fools jokes that circulated around the internet on Friday: 

Nick Saban is retiring. 

Bryce Young is entering the transfer portal. 

Uber-recruit Arch Manning commits to Alabama. 

NBA clubs see JD Davison as a first-round draft pick. 

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The outlier truth is answer D, although among Alabama basketball fans, Davison’s readiness for the NBA might not rank as the most plausible of those assertions. UA coach Nate Oats told “The Field of 68” podcast that Davison is “on a lot of first-round boards,” and that’s no joke. He’s faced with a serious decision requiring serious thought on whether he’ll be a one-and-done college player. Davison and those close to him are no doubt gathering every scrap of intel they can about how quickly he’d get a call if he enters the draft. 

Is his game NBA-ready? 

That’s the debate fans inevitably fall into any time a college athlete has a tough choice to make on whether to leave school early for a pro career. Around here, it’s debated far more often with exiting football players than for basketball, but the is-he-ready question easily attaches itself in any scenario. 

It's the wrong question. 

The more pertinent question is whether the NBA is ready for him. And sometimes, the answer to that is yes when the answer to “is he ready?” is no. Davison could turn out to be a classic example of that in this year’s NBA Draft. 

What the NBA sees in Davison is plain enough: a crazy-good amount of athleticism that ultimately could translate into an exciting pro. Everything about that part of Davison's game – his speed and explosiveness, his leaping ability, and the size he pairs with those traits – points toward a successful pro career. His physical tools are NBA stuff. 

His performance has some catching up to do. 

On some nights, the player the NBA sees shined through: like his season-high 20 points in a win over Gonzaga, arguably Alabama’s signature win of the season. On more nights than not, however, he just looked like a very talented player who could use at least one more year in college. 

He started just six games for Alabama, although he played starter-level minutes, and scored 8.5 points per game while shooting just 30% from 3-point range. His decision-making was problematic at times, resulting in too many turnovers. In leading the team with 4.3 assists per game, he was consistently unselfish in looking to make the extra pass, but his extra pass was sometimes one pass too many. Davison’s court awareness needs polish as well, as evidenced when he dribbled out a shot clock at a critical late juncture in Alabama's season-ending loss to LSU. 

In other words, he simply played like the freshman he was. 

Growing pains should be expected of any incoming freshman, including those who are marvelously talented, and Davison was no exception. The good news for Davison is that these issues can melt away with the simple benefit of experience. And if the NBA is prepared to let him gain that experience while taking first-round paychecks to the bank instead of taking books to class, his decision becomes a very easy one. He’s got about three more weeks before the deadline to declare for the draft, after which he’ll have another five weeks to withdraw his name and retain his NCAA eligibility if he so chooses. 

Is Davison ready for the NBA? No, he's not. 

Is the NBA ready for him? Oats’ best information says yes. 

And when the NBA draft commences June 23, the joke could be on his detractors.

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Tuscaloosa News sport columnist Chase Goodbread.