Trayce Jackson-Davis

Warriors' Jackson-Davis holds his own against Team USA's best big men

NBC Universal, Inc.

LAS VEGAS – There was a sequence Monday during Team USA’s second and final scrimmage against the USA Select Team that highlights the many valuable lessons Trayce Jackson-Davis can take back home to San Francisco. 

The second-year Warriors center set a high screen on Steph Curry above the 3-point line for USA Select teammate Jaime Jaquez Jr., rolled to the basket and the lefty finished with his off-hand over Joel Embiid. Jackson-Davis then sank deep into the paint on defense because of LeBron James’ driving ability, leaving Embiid open at the top of the arc. 

And just like that, Jackson-Davis recovered a split second too late. 

His hand went up, but Embiid wasn’t bothered thanks to receiving ample space and drilled a three on Jackson-Davis. A teaching moment that surely was reviewed from film later that same day. 

“This is as good as it gets,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr, who currently is coaching Team USA one last time, told NBC Sports Bay Area. 

Earlier in the scrimmage, Jackson-Davis began to set a screen for Brandon Miller on his left side near half court, adjusted his body to the right, rolled and came down with a high pass over Embiid. The Warriors’ steal of a second-round pick a year ago then settled, jumped off two feet and was fouled by Anthony Edwards on his way back up. 

The same scrimmage also featured Jackson-Davis getting backed down all the way to the hoop by Embiid before the 2022-23 NBA MVP made a twisting layup over him, and Jackson-Davis lost Curry on a backdoor cut but was lucky enough to see Steph miss his reverse layup attempt. 

Another mental note, another lesson to be learned. 

Finding the value in the highs and lows was evident throughout the day. The hustle and agility of Golden State’s late-season starting center who forced Kevon Looney to the bench also made Jayson Tatum kick the ball out when Jackson-Davis swiped down at Tatum exposing the ball down low. 

But Jackson-Davis’ best play Monday might have been at the hands of a missed shot.

After guarding Curry at the 3-point line and using his length to make him hand the ball over to Anthony Edwards, Jackson-Davis sprinted back to the other side off a miss from the Minnesota Timberwolves star and noticed a mismatch of Curry having to defend him in the post. Jackson-Davis took one strong dribble that made Edwards leave Brandon Miller wide open in the left corner. 

That’s when Jackson-Davis found Miller without hesitation, but the No. 2 pick in the 2023 NBA Draft clanked the corner three. The result didn’t matter. It was Warriors basketball on UNLV’s practice court. 

“I just think my feel,” Jackson-Davis says when I asked where his game has grown the most from the start of his rookie year. “I kind of grew up a little bit this year. Started the year in the G League and then getting a few playing time here and there, spot minutes, and then starting at the end of the year – I just feel like my growth, I just need to keep improving on that, keep improving on what I need to do as a player to get my guys open shots and then finish.” 

Sunday’s first scrimmage had to feature more nerves and butterflies for the young Select Team. Flashes of Jackson-Davis having success on some of the game's biggest and best giants like Davis and Bam Adebayo was hard to miss. So was them asserting their will on Jackson-Davis, too.

The invaluable lessons have stacked up day by day. 

Embiid didn’t specifically mention any one Select Team player who has stood out to him, but after a day of battling Jackson-Davis, he made it a point of emphasize how they’ve prepared them for the 2024 Paris Summer Olympics. 

“They’ve given us a challenge,” Embiid said. “It’s pretty good for us. They play hard, they play fast. They run a lot of actions we might see, especially at the level of some of those Olympic teams. They’ve done a great job.” 

A storied four-year college career at Indiana wasn’t enough for Jackson-Davis to be a top draft pick. His first NBA start didn’t come until the Warriors’ final game of the 2023 calendar year, one in which he dropped 17 points on 8-of-11 shooting against the Dallas Mavericks. 

Now a little over a year after sliding to the second-round of the draft, Jackson-Davis and his rookie class Warriors teammate Brandin Podziemski find themselves in a similar situation that started Curry’s road to stardom. 

“I wasn't on the Select Team, but my rookie year I was on the 2010 World Championship team,” Curry said. “You get to kind of expand your game, get tested a little bit, work on some stuff and make the most of the summers. It's kind of cool to see them going through that same kind of process.”

Each step of Jackson-Davis’ journey has seen him flourish given bigger opportunities. Brick by brick, step by step, the big man sporting a fresh buzz cut and tightly shaved chin hair knows he’s coming out the other side better after battling the likes of Embiid, Davis, Adebayo and others for two straight scrimmages. 

“At the end of the day, being out on the court with these dudes was a blessing,” Jackson-Davis said.

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