/2021 WNBA Draft scouting report: Tennessee’s do-it-all wing Rennia Davis makes her case to be a lottery pick
2021 WNBA Draft: Rennia Davis scouting report as Tennessee's do-it-all wing makes her case for the lottery

2021 WNBA Draft scouting report: Tennessee’s do-it-all wing Rennia Davis makes her case to be a lottery pick

Rennia Davis led the Tennessee Volunteers to a strong regular season, but last week they were upset in the second round of the NCAA Tournament by the Michigan Wolverines. That brought Davis’ storied college career to a close, one she ended as part of the All-SEC First Team, and an All-American Honorable Mention.

Now, Davis is off to the WNBA, where she’ll be a first-round pick in the 2021 Draft, which is set for April 15. Depending on how things go, she might even go in the lottery due to the fact that she’s the best wing prospect in this class. Ahead of the draft, here’s a closer look at Davis’ strengths and weaknesses.

Strengths

Versatility on the defensive end

One of the main reasons Davis is projected to be a potential lottery pick is because of her ability on the defensive end. As the league becomes more perimeter oriented, you need strong and athletic wing defenders who can guard multiple positions, and that’s exactly what you’ll get with Davis.

A natural wing herself, Davis primarily defended on the perimeter where she has the quickness and length to make things very difficult for opponents. Watch in the first quarter against Auburn as she executes a perfect defensive possession. She moves her feet both on and off the ball, cuts off the driving lanes and deters a jumper with her length:

And here she is maneuvering around screens to completely shut down UConn’s Christyn Williams, who over the weekend put up 27 points in the Sweet 16:

When she did guard up, however, you saw that she has the strength to deal with many bigs. It would be too much to ask her to match up with some of the WNBA’s true centers, but Davis should be able to guard four positions in the pros. Here she is using her strength and length to battle in the post and force Ole Miss into a difficult shot.

Efficiency in the paint

There are some real concerns about Davis’ shooting, which you can read more about below. When it comes to scoring in the paint, however, she’s about as efficient as it gets. For the season, she shot 73.9 percent at the rim, and 53.6 percent on shots in the paint overall. The former was 15.5 percent above the Division I average, by CBB Analytics.

Davis can score in a number of ways, but the most impressive aspect of her efficiency around the basket is how she converts tough finishes. Whether she has to go through them or around them, Davis isn’t deterred by a waiting defender:

Rebounding

Davis is a rebounding machine, and if you just looked at her numbers without knowing anything else about her, you would assume she was a big rather than a wing. Not only was she Tennessee’s leading rebounder, but she accounted for over 20 percent of the team’s total rebounds for the entire season.

She pulled down nine rebounds per game, which ranked in the 98th percentile per Her Hoops Stats, and her career-high 20 rebounds against Kentucky in January were the fifth-most in a game in school history.

It’s usually not worth even cutting highlights of rebounds, but we’ll make an exception for Davis because she’s pretty special. She has the power to carve out space under the rim and the athleticism and awareness to go up and attack the ball at its highest point:

Weaknesses

3-point shooting

Davis’ most obvious weakness on the offensive side of the ball is her outside shot. She made just 26 percent of her 3-point attempts from downtown this season, and for her career was 113 of 360 (31.4 percent). Only once in her four years in Knoxville did she shoot above 32 percent for a season — 37 percent as a sophomore — and based on all other evidence that appears to be an outlier.

It’s still possible to be an impactful player on the wing without a reliable 3-point shot, but there’s no question it makes things more difficult. If Davis can become even somewhat reliable from distance, it will raise her ceiling by a considerable amount. One potential positive is that she shot 42.1 percent from the corner on a small sample size. Perhaps in a lesser role, where she primarily takes catch-and-shoot attempts, the shooting might improve.

Play creation

As we’ve seen, Davis is a highly efficient scorer in and around the paint. But whether it’s off cuts, in transition or by grabbing offensive rebounds, she’s much more effective as a play finisher than a play creator.

Davis did play with the ball in her hands a fair amount for Tennessee, but it didn’t always lead to success. She shot 28.8 percent on jumpers off the dribble, and when she tried to create off the bounce — either for herself or others — it too often led to bad shots or turnovers:

Getting lost off the ball

There aren’t a whole lot of reasons to criticize Davis on the defensive end. It’s the most WNBA-ready aspect of her game, and she has the size, athleticism and tenacity to be a strong defender at the next level.

No one is perfect, however, and one area Davis can improve is her off-ball defense. She’s not always super sharp when playing help defense, and has a tendency to lose track of her player when they cut and move.

Here’s an example from their loss to Michigan in the tournament. Davis is defending weak side in the corner, and slides in since the ball is on the other side of the court. That was the right move, except that in the process she didn’t realize her player had took off for the other side of the court. Davis catches on too late, and Michigan gets a wide-open 3:

Earlier in the season, there was a similar situation against West Virginia. This time Davis is a little bit more in tune with her player’s movements, but not for the entire possession. She takes a peek at the ball, and as she does so gets burned again. This time the open 3 goes down:

Conclusion

Like many players in this class, the story with Davis is going to be about situation and expectation. There are very valid concerns about Davis on the offensive end — poor 3-point shooting and sub-par creation — and it’s hard to be a star wing at the next level when you can’t consistently create shots for yourself and others. As such, if you pick Davis expecting her to come in and change your franchise right away, you’re probably going to be disappointed.

At the same time, she does just about everything else well, which is why it’s easy to believe in Davis’ WNBA prospects. If she winds up in the right environment and has a chance to develop as a defensive-minded role player who gets out in transition and finds baskets on cuts and offensive rebounds, the team that takes her will be quite happy. And if the 3-point shot ever develops, it’s not a stretch to imagine Davis winding up as the best player from this draft.