Trayce Jackson-Davis

Trayce Jackson-Davis might be what Warriors have needed all along

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SAN FRANCISCO – Trayce Jackson-Davis has the chance to do the funniest thing. 

The Warriors rookie is days away from beginning his first NBA training camp after a historic four-year college career at Indiana right as his brother, Tayven, has become the Hoosiers’ starting quarterback. The hypothetical quarterback connection Jackson-Davis can have in his new Bay Area home also shouldn’t be overlooked.

This isn’t to go full-on Charlie Kelly conspiracy theory trying to find Pepe Silvia. What can’t be ignored is the unique immediate impact the No. 57 overall pick can have on the Warriors. 

Stick with me. 

Golden State grabbed the big man with the second-to-last overall pick in last June’s draft. Three years prior, the Warriors took a raw, inexperienced center with a sky-high ceiling in James Wiseman No. 2 overall.

The year after the Warriors seemingly had their shiny new toy, so did the 49ers when they traded up to the No. 3 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft and chose Trey Lance, a QB who played 19 total college games and attempted slightly over 300 pass attempts in a three-year span at the FCS level for North Dakota State. Then came Brock Purdy, a four-year starting quarterback who smashed Iowa State’s record books and was there for the taking when the 49ers were on the clock with the final pick in the 2022 draft.

Wiseman’s career has been hampered by injuries and potential hasn’t met production through his first three years since being drafted by the Warriors, prompting the franchise to move on at last season’s trade deadline. Lance also was met by terrible injury luck and has been behind the curve since his pro career started, leading to him getting sent to a rival after being pushed out by Purdy, the player who could have the 49ers firmly on path to fulfill their quest for a sixth championship. 

Now here comes Jackson-Davis in San Francisco, the Warriors’ first four-year player since Eric Paschall in the second round of the 2019 NBA Draft, and one that figures to have more upside than Paschall. Jackson-Davis comes into camp having played 126 college games. His final two seasons were under coach Mike Woodson, someone who previously spent nine years as an NBA head coach, giving Jackson-Davis yet another rare leg up on past draft picks Steve Kerr has been handed. 

“Trayce is an impressive young prospect,” Kerr said Monday at Chase Center. “You don't see that kind of college experience very often anymore. But you immediately recognize the experience level and the advantage that gives him.” 

Jackson-Davis was named All-Big Ten all four years at Indiana, making the conference’s All-Defense team twice and was a consensus All-American as a senior. The 6-foot-9 southpaw left Indiana as the school’s all-time leader in rebounds and blocked shots, nearly averaged a double-double all four years and hit the mark in Year 4, putting up 20.9 points, 10.8 rebounds and 2.9 blocks per game. In his second season under Woodson, Jackson-Davis also averaged a career-best 4.0 assists per game and pushed his assist percentage from 11.3 percent his first three college seasons combined to 24.8 percent his senior year.

Draymond Green produced a 27.8 assist percentage last season for the Warriors, and his career assist percentage is 25.5 percent. 

“What I like about Trayce is he plays the way we like to play -- good passer, dribble handoff guy at the top of the key, good screener, gives us a lob threat that we don't otherwise have, which is a really nice addition,” Kerr said. “And I think he's just the kind of guy who feels the game well. 

“He's got a good feel for passing, cutting movement. And a lot of the stuff that we already run he runs really well. So Trayce is a really intriguing prospect and will be fun to watch him play.”

The Warriors over the offseason had plenty of looks at possibly adding a veteran center to make up for some of their size deficiencies. Dwight Howard was part of that list, as was Dewayne Dedmon, Derrick Favors, Tony Bradley and others. The only big man general manager Mike Dunleavy decided to commit to, as of now and likely for the foreseeable future, was Usman Garuba on a two-way contract. 

Dunleavy is confident and comfortable with the group, and Jackson-Davis is part of the GM’s thought process. 

“We have five guys that can play center for training camp,” Dunleavy said Monday. “To me, it's a position that you can't play multiple of, so I want to make sure everybody gets enough reps. That's been our discussion with the coaching staff as well. And I think that's the path we'll head down. Again, we’ve got to evaluate it. And I think with us, we have to be very careful about the types of players we bring in. Just because a guy is tall or just because a guy can shoot or just because a guy is athletic doesn't necessarily mean they can fit in the way we play.” 

In his first draft as Warriors GM, Dunleavy traded into the second round and acquired the No. 57 overall pick from the Washington Wizards to add Jackson-Davis, simultaneously sending Patrick Baldwin Jr. -- the Warriors’ top pick the year before -- back to D.C. Dunleavy’s brother, James, works for the same agency that represents Jackson-Davis. The Warriors guaranteed him a 15-man roster spot during the draft, knowing he shouldn’t have been available when the night was coming to a close.

Wiseman was the top high school recruit in the country and deemed a top draft pick despite virtually no college experience. Jackson-Davis was ranked as the 27th-best prospect in the same high school class of 2019, per ESPN, and you’d have to multiply Wiseman’s three college games 42 times to get to how many times Jackson-Davis stepped on the floor before being drafted. 

The franchise’s predecessor was the shiny toy and should still have a long career outside of San Francisco, yet Jackson-Davis could be what Kerr and the Warriors needed the whole time. Sound familiar?

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