In 2017, a high school sophomore from Greenwood, Indiana exploded onto the national basketball recruiting scene. Two years later, Trayce Jackson-Davis was named Indiana Mr. Basketball and a McDonald's All-American. Nine of the past twelve Indiana Mr. Basketball nominees have gone on to be drafted (seven first rounders). The number 26 RSCI recruit in his class committed to the Hoosiers, giving them back-to-back in-state Mr. Basketball recipients for the first time in 21 years. Jackson-Davis is an ultra-athletic, 6'9" 245 lb. power forward who excels around the basket on both ends of the floor; he projects as a smooth/fluid athlete, a reliable interior scorer with potential to eventually extend his range, and an impactful defender with rim-protection acumen and the potential to viably switch in spurts.
Basketball runs in his blood, but TJD has made his game his own. Jackson-Davis ranks in the 98th percentile as a half-court scorer, putting up 20+ points per 40 minutes on 64+ TS%. Although he doesn’t take many shots from the outside in his role at IU, he’s flashed excellent touch on limited spot-up attempts (96th percentile) to go along with strong cutting instincts and rebounding acumen. Though he hasn't generated a ton of mainstream 2020 NBA Draft buzz to-date, Jackson-Davis will be an intriguing early entrant candidate with a chance to stick in the NBA for a long time.
Tale of the Tape
Interior & Mid-Range Scoring
Jackson-Davis is generally thought of as a more likely 2021 NBA Draft early entrant candidate, but front offices could be well-served to take him seriously as a 2020 prospect if he tests the waters. Among similar players according to BartTorvik.com, Jackson-Davis ranks top-10 in box plus-minus, offensive rating, and free throw rate. He’s an incredibly effective interior scorer, converting at a 1.436 PPP clip on non post-up attempts around the basket. 76% percent of his shots come in the restricted area, where he's made 70.1% of such attempts.
Jackson-Davis' post-up repertoire could use some polishing, as he’s only a 43rd percentile finisher on the block. Many of his misses are a result of poor/difficult shot selection, reflective of a lack of willingness/vision to make kick-out passes when he doesn't gain sufficient leverage advantage in the post. Learning when to trust teammates, read help side defenders, and situationally function as a post facilitator would go a long way in solidifying his projectability as a four-man at the next level.
While he isn't the most efficient post-up threat and could stand to look to kick it back out more often, Jackson-Davis is uniquely effective as a scorer when hard double-teamed. In such situations, TJD’s post-up offensive efficiency skyrockets to the 93rd percentile. The film shows that once he gets doubled, Jackson-Davis ramps up his energy/competitiveness, doing whatever it takes to get a bucket. He's proven capable of using strength, finesse, or foul-drawing acumen to blow up double teams and create high-percentage looks.
TJD's physicality, athleticism, touch, fluidity, and body control make him really difficult to handle down low. TJD has a terrific frame that projects to continue to get stronger. His powerful lower body coupled with a 7’0"+ wingspan allow him to carve out space and maintain it, against even the strongest of defenders. Perhaps his most appealing trait as a prospect is his fluid mobility at this size. He's got great feet and moves well in space, which will be essential to his success at the next level. TJD makes functional use of his length on hooks and sweeping shots around defenders in both directions. Jackson-Davis also has a silky smooth fade-away he employs when he needs space, which provides some sense of optimism that the lefty forward could develop a dependable mid-range jumper, and possibly a three point stroke, at the next level.
In the clip below, we highlight his interior and mid-range scoring.
Jackson-Davis has shown good anticipatory instincts as a defensive prospect. While there's certainly room to improve in several facets, TJD's rim-protection has been really encouraging. Through Indiana’s first 20 games, he has a 7.9 BLK%, good for 6th best among NCAA DI freshmen.
Jackson-Davis’s combination of size and fluid athleticism makes him difficult to drive on; his body control allows him to contain the driver and, in a way, direct him where he wants. Once the offensive player commits he does a nice job of keeping his hands away and avoiding silly reach-in fouls. Contesting jump shooters can be hit or miss, as he’s allowing 0.882 PPP on spot-ups this season. He has a tendency to occasionally jump at pump fakes and leave the basket exposed for easy lay-ins, but that aggressiveness can likely be honed and blended with better decision-making as he accumulates more experience. When at his best, TJD is agile and flashes excellent reactionary athleticism, causing problems for opposing offenses both in the paint and on the perimeter. He’s averaging 2.6 blocks per 40 minutes and, as his discipline improves, expect this number to climb.
In the clip below we highlight TJD's rim-protection.
Trayce Jackson-Davis' early entrant decision and the NBA's reaction thereto will be an intriguing case study this spring. It's certainly possible that he tests the waters, but staying in the 2020 NBA Draft pool would likely entail a team making him a promise in the 25-35 range (likely with a multi-year guarantee if he lands in the early 2nd round). There may be an untapped market inefficiency with young prospects that are likely to be significant risers in the coming season. As long as the front office and coaching staff have an understanding that he may not be ready to meaningfully contribute at the NBA level for 2-3 years, it may very well be worth taking a stab at TJD in this range, getting him into an NBA development program, etc. This could be really good long-term value in what is thought to be a weak draft class, especially for a prospect that projects as a potential sharp riser as a returning sophomore.
It's also entirely possible that TJD experiences a late-season draft stock surge (a la Mfiondu Kabengele), depending on how the rest of the season plays out. As it currently stands, Jackson-Davis projects as an early-to-mid 2nd Rounder with the potential to return exponential value if chosen by a smart team with a strong player development program. If he does decide to return to Indiana for his sophomore season, expect him to break out as a likely 1st Round candidate in 2021.
Statistics courtesy of Synergy Sports Technology and SportsReference
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