SAN FRANCISCO — Trayce Jackson-Davis and Brandin Podziemski aren’t much like the Warriors’ rookies in the recent past. Where most rookies are raw athletes teams hope they can mold into NBA players, these two are NBA-ready.
Coach Steve Kerr hasn’t been afraid to play either in key situations. He has had Jackson-Davis guarding Denver’s MVP center Nikola Jokic last week when Draymond Green was out, and he has sometimes used Podziemski as a third-string guard role to facilitate the offense and provide a youthful spark.
“They’re ready,” Kerr said after the close Denver loss. “We’ll throw them out there in any situation.”
Jackson-Davis, 23, is a four-year college player out of Indiana who, under coach Mike Woodson there, learned the value of creating shots for outside shooters as a big. That’s a skill most of the Warriors’ bigs throughout the dynasty have possessed, dating back to the Andrew Bogut days.
Jackson-Davis has shown an immediate feel for the Warriors’ ball movement, but at 6-foot-9 he also gives them some size in the paint as a scorer. He isn’t necessarily bumping elbows with the league’s 7-footers, but he’s been impactful on the scoring end of the pick-and-roll.
He was a rebound shy of a double-double in New Orleans, which was noteworthy. If he gets a double-double, he’ll shed his “Baby T” nickname the Warriors’ veterans gave him. And teammates were impressed with his defense on Jokic in Denver, but Jackson-Davis was even more thrilled about an offensive possession in which he spun away from Jokic at the top of the arc for an easy bucket.
In 60 total minutes played over seven games, Jackson-Davis has 27 points and five blocks as the Warriors are plus-35 with him on the floor.
“I love Trayce’s game,” Klay Thompson said in Denver. “He’s going to be in the NBA a long time. He’s ready. He’s able right now. What a steal we got late in the second (round). He’s going to be a huge help for us all year.”
The Warriors could use a little more depth in the frontcourt behind Green and Kevon Looney, which means Jackson-Davis’ usage may go up as the season goes on. Podziemski, meanwhile, is digging himself out of a buried backcourt depth chart. The 20-year-old out of Santa Clara has been playing over Cory Joseph, the third-string guard signed in the offseason.
Podziemski drew some draft attention while at Santa Clara, primarily for his 43.8% shooting from 3, but he’s given the Warriors a spark off the bench for his high-flying rebounds and savvy assists. He has 15 rebounds and eight assists in 51 minutes played over five games and the Warriors are plus-34 in his minutes.
Neither of the rookies is a rotation regular and thus both will be shuttling back and forth from Santa Cruz to get playing reps with the G League team. But the Warriors’ vets have said they like having the rookies around, not just for their play, but for the energy, too.
When the rookies were shipped off to Santa Cruz for the start of the Warriors’ long road trip two-plus weeks ago, Green publicly demanded the rookies return to the NBA team.
“The energy that they bring to this team – we missed that,” Green said after a close win in Oklahoma City. “Next time we have an in-season tournament game, we need those guys here, because they bring a lot of juice for us.
“You always talk about young guys bringing energy. That’s their job. But we don’t have to tell those guys to bring energy. They do every single day. I wasn’t overly shocked our energy wasn’t there because they are the guys that lift our energy level and they weren’t here.”