Trayce Jackson-Davis

Jackson-Davis could be Warriors' best answer to obvious problem

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SAN FRANCISCO – As it has become evident that the Warriors lack rim protection among their rotation players, the drumbeat for more frequent Trayce Jackson-Davis sightings is getting louder.

It is coming from inside and outside Chase Center. 

Steve Kerr can hear it, too, but the coach isn’t quite ready to slide the 6-foot-9 rookie and his 7-foot-1 wingspan into the rotation.

Among my questions to Kerr on Tuesday was whether he believes Jackson-Davis can fill that defensive need.

“I do,” the coach said. “That’s why he’s potentially in the mix.

“But it’s impossible to play 13, 14 guys. We’re trying to get certain lineups going, trying to get certain guys going. We’re a quarter of the way through (the regular season) and we are what our record says we are, as Bill Parcells used to say. We need to get better. We know that. We have 62 games left. Trayce is in our back pocket. We like him. He may get that chance at some point.”

If the Warriors are serious about improving defense in the paint, “some point” needs to be soon.

Draymond Green remains a stellar defender, but he’s at his best when he can roam. Kevon Looney remains solid, but he’s not an instinctive shot-blocker. It’s clear the best assets of Dario Sarić are on offense.

Green averages a block every 36.8 minutes. Looney is at one per 66.3 minutes, Sarić 72.2 minutes. Jackson-Davis has seven blocks over 102 minutes – the lowest of those on the regular roster this season – which computes to one block every 14.6 minutes.

Blocks are merely one measure of Jackson-Davis’ presence in the paint. He has a defensive mentality, and he is by far the team’s most athletic big man. At age 23, with four years of major-college experience, he might be less prone to bite on pump fakes or commit fouls than most young players determined to protect the rim.

“He’s already really schooled,” Kerr said. “He came out of Indiana, playing for Mike Woodson. Really well coached, and four years, too, 125 (actually 126) games. He’s got a good fundamental base underneath him.

“Now it’s more about seeing the NBA pictures, recognizing what teams like to do, getting used to certain little nuances in the game. But he’s great. He works hard. He’s very coachable. He’s getting better.”

Jackson-Davis has played three games with the G-League Santa Cruz Warriors, averaging 19 points, 8.7 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.3 blocks. He’ll play a fourth G League game Tuesday night.

Whether in games with Santa Cruz or practices with Golden State, Jackson-Davis is doing all the right things, according to Kerr.

“We’re trying to get him as many minutes as possible with Santa Cruz and just keep him in the mix here,” Kerr said. “It just depends on how the games are going, how the season is going. But we all feel like his chance is going to come this year.”

There is plenty of time, as 62 games remain on the regular-season schedule. But the Warriors already have identified a need that Jackson-Davis can address. Perhaps not in every game or against every opponent, but surely there are moments.

In the wake of beating the Warriors last Saturday in Los Angeles, Clippers forward Paul George made a comment that provides a glimpse of how the Warriors are perceived around the league.

“They don’t have a rim protector,” he said after draining a game-winning 3-pointer. “Our advantage is we have size. We have wings that can get to the basket. That’s been our game plan, to get to the rim and find shooters on kick-outs.”

Golden State is 28th in the NBA in blocks, at 3.6 per game, and is allowing an average of 49.3 points per game in the paint, ranking 14th. Opponents shoot 63.4 percent within five feet, ranking 15th – not atrocious but hardly meeting the standard of a contender. 

Here’s where it is atrocious: In the 5-to-9-foot range, the Warriors allow a league-worst 48.8-percent shooting. Opponents are essentially playing Pop-A-Shot in the paint.

Thus, the drumbeat. And, perhaps, in coming weeks, a longer look at a rookie everyone on the coaching staff and roster seem to believe can help.

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