BLOOMINGTON — He’s been at IU so long it might be lost on some fans that this spring marks Trayce Jackson-Davis’ first foray into the NBA pre-draft process. Declared but committed to maintaining eligibilityJackson-Davis is one of the few actors who could serve as early case studies of how the decision to stay or leave has changed in the NIL era.
Already an accomplished college player, Jackson-Davis finished his junior season in March with some of the best basketball of his IU career. In his last seven games, Jackson-Davis has posted 151 points and 54 rebounds, shooting 63 of 100 (63%) from the floor and 25 of 33 (75.8%) from the free throw line.
Now, Jackson-Davis is availing itself of this pre-drafting process for the first time. He is now part of a class of players for whom the decision is no longer as simple as whether to stay in college or start a professional career, with name, image and likeness reforms now allowing college athletes to take advantage of their likeness.
And Jackson-Davis — an athlete whose profile could translate to NIL six-figure earnings — likely sits on the line between seeing greater value in staying in the draft or going back to school.
“It’s an interesting case,” an NBA source told IndyStar. “I think he has a chance of getting drafted. Not a lock, but he’s in that range where I don’t think it’s unrealistic to go for a two-way deal whether you get drafted or you be one of the top 15 guys to go undrafted and end up on these deals.
Jackson-Davis’ place in the hierarchy of the project is a matter of debate.
Some screenings, including those from ESPN and CBS, currently don’t see him being selected in this summer’s draft. NBAdraftnet and Bleacher Report, however, both list him as a second-round pick.
Jackson-Davis will have the option to increase its stock beyond its current level. But if he’s an undrafted second-round free agent prospect, Jackson-Davis could find himself weighing the merits of a two-way contract and some time in the G League, as opposed to a another year working on his game in Bloomington.
“It’s just tough,” a league source said, “because he’s probably going to get stuck in the G League, and it’s going to be luck and timing, like a lot of these guys.”
There would be benefits to a trip through the G League.
There, Jackson-Davis could have more leeway to experiment mid-range, to work on developing skills like face-up offensive play and jumping without hurting a college team trying to win games.
“His best use of winning college games and getting a team to the NCAA Tournament probably doesn’t change the way he plays,” a source said, “while there might be a chance in a professional development environment in the G League, you could accept some level of failure as you try to see if he could stretch (offensively).”
The positional fit will also play into Jackson-Davis’ NBA potential.
Listed at 6-9, Jackson-Davis’ best work in college came with him playing all five. With good but not outrageous reach, he would be slightly undersized at the next level if he stayed in the middle, but he could boost his appeal if he demonstrated the ability to stretch his game at both ends of the pitch.
“For him to improve where I think the league is projecting him, is he able to come out and shoot?” a source said. “Can he keep more of the four mobile men? As the NBA has gotten smaller, it’s almost like wingers have become four men in many situations.
The most intriguing question around player decisions in the Jackson-Davis position — obviously talented but not guaranteed to be drafted — has never applied before.
Two-way contracts can pay a substantial range in the NBA, depending on how long the player under said contract spends in the G League as opposed to the NBA. The value of these contracts will vary depending on this period, but they start in the high five figures and can easily reach into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Likewise, now make ZERO earnings for top athletes from many Power Five schools. Jackson-Davis’ total income from NIL transactions is not publicly known. But given that it has deals with Merchant’s Bank of Indiana, Pennzoil and, through the Hoosiers For Good NIL collectivemultiple charities, it’s certainly plausible that he’s already making as much money playing for Indiana as he could if he ended up splitting his time between the NBA and the G League.
Already, college basketball has seen players like Armando Bacot of North Carolina and Oscar Tshiebwe of Kentucky, winner of the Wooden Award last season, return to college. In Tshiebwe’s case, multiple reports suggest his NULL earnings for the upcoming season will be in the millions.
As a general rule, NIL agreements cannot be made conditional on participation, so no agreement signed by Jackson-Davis could be nullified by his departure from Indiana. But given that many deals include things like public appearance commitments, it would make sense that he would struggle to fulfill them all if he was playing his basketball in an NBA or GA city. League other than maybe Indianapolis.
The potential for equal or perhaps even greater earnings from another year in college could play a role in Jackson-Davis’ final decision.
“It’s kind of like a lot of these guys, the Tshiebwes, the (Hunter) Dickinsons, the Bacots,” a league source said. “NIL makes a lot more sense if you can get that (dollar figure).”
Jackson-Davis looks likely to get a combined invite from the NBA, which could also open the door to more meetings and in-person workouts. The combine runs from May 16-22, with the NCAA’s early withdrawal deadline 10 days later at 11:59 p.m. on June 1. Invitations to the combine have not yet been made public but are expected to be distributed in early May.
Where Jackson-Davis fits into the final landscape, and therefore whether he returns to school, may well come down to these final days. Indiana can afford to wait. The Hoosiers have a full complement of 13 scholarships if Jackson-Davis returns for 2022-23.
Jackson-Davis needs to use the next few weeks to show he can stretch his offensive game, tone down his size as a five by defending multiple positions and generally make himself a more versatile prospect for NBA teams. Even then, NUL opportunities could tempt him to return to school for a fourth season, in which he could threaten many school records.
“If he shows there’s potential to do that, I think that would help his projection in the eyes of the teams, probably a bit higher,” a league source said. “It’s not unique to him either. That’s a lot of players. It might be a bit of a different skill, but once you get out of the handful of top guys, there are strengths and weaknesses that you need to balance and figure out, project, and start working on almost immediately after they’re drafted. , to try to get that out of the guys.
“It’s not just Trayce Jackson-Davis. He’s one in 50 guys in the draft going through the same thing.
Follow IndyStar reporter Zach Osterman on Twitter: @ZachOsterman.