Golden State Warriors rookie Trayce Jackson-Davis was one of college basketball’s best players in 2022. 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, though – and especially undrafted rookies – his minutes have been meager to start the season. The fact that he now plays on a Warriors team hoping to contend for yet another NBA title means his already limited opportunities will be even tougher to come by. Contending teams don’t often give consistent minutes to players with no pro experience.
Still, TJD might 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 was out of the lineup, and a lot of TJD’s opportunities will be in situations like this one.
Injuries and load management are to be expected on any NBA team throughout the 82-game slog of a regular season, so Jackson-Davis will see plenty of ‘fill-in’ minutes when starters and nightly role players are out of the lineup.
But Jackson-Davis boasts a skill set that can potentially benefit the Warriors’ second unit even when the whole team is fully healthy and everyone is on the court. From his rim protection to his passing prowess, TJD is a highly versatile player who possesses plenty of upside in areas the Warriors struggle.
Jackson-Davis sees the floor better than most players his size. That vision could pay dividends on 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 putting together a masterful passing season so far (CP3 has an assist-to-turnover ratio higher than 10:1) the Dubs’ bench is a bit bereft of passing ability. Jonathon Kuminga, Moses Moody and Gary Payton II are all productive players, but not necessarily high-level distributors.
Jackson-Davis can provide more ball movement for that unit – especially in the short roll- which could help open up the floor even more for the rest of the backups.
In fact, TJD’s passing stood out to Steve Kerr before the season even started. “He’s a good passer,” Kerr said during a press conference in September, also saying TJD can be a “dribble hand-off guy at the top of the key.”
Golden State’s second unit doesn’t have a real rim stopper it can deploy. Dario Saric has been solid for Golden State, but averages 0.2 blocks per game for his career. Even starter Kevon Looney, who has established himself as a very dependable NBA center, doesn’t provide the Warriors with much in the way of pure shot-blocking.
Jackson-Davis, meanwhile, swatted 5 shots in the first two games that he played meaningful minutes. Here’s an example of the athleticism TJD provides inside, from a game this preseason.
Will TJD Get a Chance?
Rookies seldom contribute on teams that have dreams of hoisting a Larry O’Brien trophy at the season’s end. But Trayce Jackson-Davis – in theory, at least – can provide Golden State with some athletic, versatile play from a backup big that any contending team would be happy with.
If he can consistently make smart decisions and deter some shots at the rim when he does get on the floor, TJD may squeeze his way into regular minutes as the season unfolds.