Arguably the most improved player in the Big-10 this past year, Mike Davis
saw his minutes triple and his production spike dramatically in his sophomore season, all while showing a very intriguing skill-level and plenty of upside to continue to improve down the road. Although very much an unknown commodity at this point, Davis is intriguing enough to take a deeper look at right now, as he could emerge as a very intriguing prospect down the road.
Davis has decent size for a power forward at 6-9, although his rail thin frame is clearly the main thing holding him back from taking the next big step in his development. He's a mobile player, not incredibly explosive albeit, but clearly the type of prospect who has yet to reach his full athletic potential, and already has more than enough natural tools to get by at the collegiate level.
A finesse type big man through and through, Davis is equally comfortable playing facing or with his back to the basket, showing intriguing skills in both areas and already emerging as a highly productive and efficient option in sizable spurts for Illinois last season.
Facing the basket, Davis displays a very effective jump-shot, looking like a very legit pick and pop option with range out to 18 feet. He can space the floor pretty effectively in Illinois' offense, and should continue to improve in this area based on the potential he showed last season. His ball-handling skills are a work in progress, though, as you'd rarely see him attack his matchup from the perimeter, which is a part of his game he might want to work on.
In the post, Davis lacks the strength to establish great position, and surely doesn't have any real ability to back down his defender, but he still finds a way to be productive thanks to his excellent skill-level. As long as he can get his shot off from a reasonable distance, he can be highly effective, in an old-school kind of way. Davis is able to just turn and throw the ball in the basket with a variety of intriguing jump-hooks, turnaround jumpers and pretty floaters, often from very awkward angles. The fact that he can get his shot off using multiple release points makes him very difficult to guard, and it's hard not to come away impressed at times by the incredibly soft touch he shows around the basket.
Not the most contact-loving big man you'll find, Davis rarely gets to the free throw line, and is also a fairly underwhelming offensive rebounder. He is an excellent passer, though, sporting a positive assist to turnover ratio, which is a product of his very nice feel for the game, and the fact that he's a pretty mistake-free player. He converts at a very solid rate from the field (53%), despite the fact that he's not really taking all that many high-percentage shots, due to his style of play.
Defensively, Davis is a smart and pretty competitive guywhich clearly helps him on the defensive glass, where ranked 13th amongst all draft prospects per-40 minutes pace adjusted last season.
Davis lacks the strength to avoid getting posted up by the bulkier big men he often matches up with in the Big 10, an area he'll have to improve in if he has aspirations to play at the next level. Besides putting on weight, he'll need to get tougher and more aggressive on this end as well. On the perimeter, Davis is not that much better, as he shows average lateral quickness and is often too upright in his stance, losing his focus at times and clearly not being the most experienced player you'll find. He needs to mature both physically as well as emotionally, as he tends to get rattled easily by a small mistake he makes or a bad call from the referees.
Although not heralded in the least bit on the national level at this point, Davis looked to be on the verge of a breakout junior season. He faced somewhat of a setback this summer, though, when he broke his ankle back in mid-June. He's reportedly already back on the court, which is a good sign for Illini fans.
How highly regarded of a NBA draft prospect Davis ends up being when he's done at Illinois will likely come down to how much weight teams think he'll be able to put on over the next few years. He has some very intriguing attributes, but likely won't be able to translate his game over very effectively against NBA caliber athletes if he can't get considerably stronger. We'll have to wait and see how things play out.