Jessup finally makes Warriors debut after a year of waiting

Justinian Jessup

SACRAMENTO -- Justinian Jessup hadn't played a basketball game in a Warriors jersey before Tuesday night. 

Some might ask why that is significant. After all, most of the players on Summer League rosters have limited or no NBA experience. But Jessup's case is special. He's been a part of the Warriors organization since last year. But because of COVID-19 and a contract with the National Basketball League in Australia, Wednesday's Summer League 89-82 overtime win against the Kings in the California Classic was his first go in blue and gold. 

It was a slow start for the 6-foot-7 guard who the Warriors took with the 51st overall pick in the 2020 draft. He went scoreless in the first half -- an abbreviated 20-minute period -- going 0-of-6 from the field, including 0-of-4 from 3-point range. But while his shots weren't falling, Jessup stayed active, racking up three rebounds in two assists in the first half. 

Kris Weems, the Warriors' Summer League coach and head coach of the Santa Cruz Warriors, says he thought Jessup's cold start was just a result of the jitters that come with playing your first game. If that's the case, Jessup shook them all out in the locker room at halftime, scoring all 11 of his points in the final two periods on 5-of-10 shooting, including 1-of-4 from three. 

"I had good looks in the first half, but they just didn't fall," Jessup said. "I'm not too worried about the open makes. As longs as I get to the midrange and not let the misses affect other areas of my game, then I'm alright with it."


Weems overall was pleased with Jessup's performance.

"He's not the most athletic or quick guy, but he gets to his spots pretty effectively," Weems said. "He also understands shot selection. Like, he took some tough ones but feels like he can get those off and I've seen him do it in practice now for a few days. You need confidence as a shooter. To figure out where to get a shot, but then also because a team needs you to do that. We're expecting him to put some shots up, somebody who can stretch the floor for us."

If Jessup were to be added to Golden State's 15-man roster, his catch-and-shoot ability surely would be the skillset the Warriors target most. He shot 40.8 percent from three at Boise State, and while that percentage dipped to 34.3 percent in the NBL, the Warriors would want him to be someone who could come in off the bench and simply knock down shots and, as Weems mentioned, space the floor. 

How effective he can be as a floor-spacer is one of Weems' main goals for Jessup during Summer League.

"Getting his shot off quickly and being able to do that with guys running at him, because now they close the distance much quicker than they do in Australia, or even college," Weems said. 

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The other area of Jessup's game Weems is looking to unlock is his facilitating. Jessup's four assists against the Kings and the moments where he ran the offense were Weems' second-biggest takeaway after his shooting.

"I think he can do more of that," Weems said. "Usually the lefties, they can handle the ball better with their right hand and I can see some of that with him. I feel comfortable with him initiating some plays. So we'll do more of that with him as we go along in Summer League."

If Jessup can develop into a dependable shooter that spaces the floor, in addition to becoming a possible secondary or tertiary facilitator, he may have a decent shot of cracking the regular-season roster. 

But Tuesday's game didn't give much insight to that question.

It's just one Summer League game, so it is hard to gauge if Jessup is the player he was in the first half -- someone whose shot isn't quite sharp enough to fulfill his role -- or the shooting floor-spacer who showed up in the second half.

The answer to that question will determine his future with the Warriors and in the NBA.

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