Trayce Jackson-Davis: 2023 NBA Draft Scouting Report
After several years in college, TJD finally exploded as a senior with the Hoosiers. Was his dominance on the interior enough to convince scouts he's worth a first-round pick?
It was our third game of the day. Along the practice court in the Purdue athletic facility, I was speaking with Center Grove head coach Zach Hahn on the sideline during a brief layup lines. He was telling me about this skinny 6’6” sophomore on his team, a kid who seemed to have something special. With his pedigree (son of former NBA veteran Dale Davis) and pogo-stick athleticism, it was easy to see the upside Hahn was speaking of.
Our team ended up defeating Center Grove and moving onto the championship game in the tournament, and I remember being somewhat underwhelmed by the hyped teenager on the other side of the court. Perhaps my initial expectations were too high, but that game forever colored my future outlook of the young man who would become Trayce Jackson-Davis.
Six years later, TJD’s cool demeanor and easy athleticism are still the same as they were in that practice gym. His body has grown, but he’s still not physically imposing at first glance.
What is unrecognizable, though, is the player that Jackson-Davis has become: a skilled big man who can handle, drive, pass, and defend at a high level. He evolved into perhaps the most impactful college player in the entire country, a true two-way force for the revitalized Indiana Hoosiers.
Jackson-Davis’ ascent in college was somewhat slow, though. He was always seen as an intriguing pro prospect due to his movement patterns and just how natural he looks on the floor. He’s long-armed and athletic, with decent size at 6’8” (maybe 6’9” if we’re being generous). Year after year, the feedback was the same for TJD: as an undersized big, he needs to do two things: add an offensive arsenal outside of just post-ups and improve as a shooter.
Despite promises year after year, those results never came. TJD was thrown into the post time and time again at Indiana, with an entire offense formatted around getting him touches on the block where he can use his left hand to finish. We kept hearing he’d work on a shot during the offseason, then come back the next year and be allergic to taking jumpers.
The college arsenal has always been post-up-driven. His right hand has never improved. And he still doesn’t take jump shots. But going into his senior season with the Hoosiers, Jackson-Davis finally added a new element to his game that could silence those criticisms about a lack of evolution.
He became a skilled passer and facilitator atop the key, a rebound-and-run threat, and a guy who can break down a defense in a variety of ways.
With that in his arsenal, the offensive output for TJD has changed. He’s not longer an undersized roll man who can’t use his right or shoot. He’s a mismatch threat against stiffer bigs due to his ability to take them off the bounce and make the right team play. He can pass or score it, patient but bursty and crafty yet explosive.
Those skills, combined with consistent improvement on defensive discipline, made him such an impactful two-way player. Jackson-Davis led the nation in BPM this year, according to Barttorvik, and is just the 17th player since Barttorvik began calculating advanced stats to have a BPM over 14 in a single season.
There are still questions about how Jackson-Davis, an undersized post player without enough perimeter skill to truly play on the wing, is going to translate in the NBA. After this most recent year at Indiana (and with how undeniably impactful he was), there’s at least an easier path to seeing how he can positively impact the game at the 5.