Warriors rookie Trayce Jackson-Davis was one of the college basketball players best players of last season. A consensus All-American, “TJD” averaged 20.9 points, 10.8 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 2.9 blocks per game at Indiana.
Like most rookies – and especially undrafted rookies – his minutes were sparse early in the season. The fact that he’s now playing on a Warriors team hoping to compete for another NBA title means it’ll be even more difficult to capitalize on his already limited opportunities. Competing teams don’t often give consistent minutes to players without professional experience.
Still, TJD could be able to crack Golden State’s rotation as the regular season progresses. On Wednesday, November 8, against Denver, he and Chris Paul were the first players off the bench for Golden State. Granted, Draymond Green wasn’t on the roster, and situations like this create a lot of opportunities for TJD. Injuries and load management are expected for any NBA team during the 82 games of a regular season, so Jackson-Davis will see plenty of backup minutes when starters and nightly role players are not in the lineup.
But Jackson-Davis has a skill set that can potentially benefit the Warriors’ second unit even when the entire team is fully healthy and everyone is on the court. From his rim protection to his passing skills, TJD is an extremely versatile player who has a lot of potential in the areas where the Warriors struggle.
Jackson-Davis sees the floor better than most players his size. That vision could pay dividends for Golden State’s second unit, especially in an offense that thrives when frontcourt players can distribute at a high level, a la Draymond Green and, to a lesser extent, Kevon Looney.
Aside from Chris Paul, who is having a masterful passing season so far (CP3 has an assist-to-turnover ratio of more than 10:1), the Dubs’ bench is somewhat lacking in passing ability. Jonathon Kuminga, Moses Moody and Gary Payton II are all productive players, but not necessarily high-level distribution players. Jackson-Davis can provide more ball movement to this unit – particularly on short throws – which could help open the floor even more for the rest of the backups.
In fact, Steve Kerr noticed TJD’s pass before the season even started. “He’s a good passer” Kerr said during a press conference in SeptemberHe also said that TJD can be a “dribble, hand-off guy at the top of the key.”
Golden State’s second unit doesn’t have a true rim stopper to deploy. Dario Saric was solid for Golden State, but averaged 0.2 blocks per game in his career. Even starter Kevon Looney, who has established himself as a very reliable NBA center, doesn’t offer much pure shot blocking for the Warriors.
Jackson-Davis, on the other hand, had five shots in the first two games in which he played significant minutes. Here is an example of the sportiness that TJD offers indoors, from a game this preseason.
Will he get a chance?
Rookies rarely contribute to teams that dream of winning a Larry O’Brian Trophy at the end of the season. But Trayce Jackson-Davis can — at least in theory — provide Golden State with athletic, versatile play from a big backup that any contending team would be happy with. If he can consistently make smart decisions and knock down some shots at the rim when he gets on the floor, TJD could push his way into regular minutes as the season progresses.
Quinn Everts covers the Golden State Warriors for Heavy.com. He lives in Portland, Oregon and has been covering the NBA for nearly a decade, including at NBA.com, Basketball News, Yardbarker and FanSided. More about Quinn Everts
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