Isaiah Livers is a 6-foot-7, 230-pound forward coming out of the University of Michigan. A four-year player in Ann Arbor, he saved his best season for last, posting career-highs in points, rebounds, assists, and three-point percentage. That last one is particularly impressive since Livers was always a good three-point shooter—which is what most Pistons fans are hoping will translate to the NBA.
To give you an idea just how good Livers was at shooting from long-range this past season, he posted 43.1% from three on 5.0 attempts per game. What’s even more impressive is that he had a 52.0% three-point attempt rate. This means that not only was Livers knocking down threes, but over half his shot attempts came from long range. For his career, Livers shot 41.2 percent from deep.
While his shooting prowess is what will get Livers on the court this season for the Detroit Pistons, I think we should all pump the breaks about him being a regular part of the rotation. To me the closest player-type and role I see for him is Jordan Nwora. Nwora was the 45th pick out of Louisville in the 2020 draft who was a forward that profiled mainly as a three-point shooter—just like Livers. While I think Livers is a much better and more willing defender than Nwora, I imagine being the 42nd pick in this year’s draft he will find similar minutes.
Nwora played in 30 games and started 2 for the NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks this past season. In these games Nwora’s per game averages were: 9.1 minutes, 5.7 points, 2.0 rebounds, 0.2 assists, 0.5 steals, 0.2 blocks while shooting 46.6% from two-point range, 45.2% from three-point distance, and 76.0% from the charity stripe. I see Livers doing the same in year one splitting time between the main roster and the Cruise.
Know Your Role
So when Livers does see the court, what should we expect him to be able to do? Well as our own Bryce Simon lays out in his offensive breakdown of Livers, he should be able to be a catch-and-shoot from three, play some pick-and-pop with his point guards, as well as be a solid team defender.
On offense, his role may be just standing in the corner a lot, but when you have someone with Livers’ shooting pedigree it is understandable why. Defenses will know he can shoot and so the team will leverage that into more spacing for his teammates. He can also pick-and-pop as he did at Michigan with Mike Smith and Eli Brooks running the show. This provides another element to the offense and helps out Saben Lee and Cory Joseph in particular. He’ll also make that one extra pass to go from a good shot to a great shot and will not just be a gunner bombing away threes.
On defense, he will know where to be in rotations as well as understand positioning and angles, but I don’t see his man-to-man skills really being fully developed quite yet. At Michigan, he did a great job in the middle of the lineup between guards Mike Smith, Eli Brooks and big mean Franz Wagner and Hunter Dickinson. Yet, when it came to being switched on to a smaller quicker guard in space or a bigger and stronger center down low Livers did not hold up. He was more able to stay with guards than bang with big men, but again, it goes back to understanding positioning and angles to stay in the way and contest shots of guys your size or smaller.
If you followed Michigan this past season, though, Chaundee Brown and Franz Wagner were the defensive specialists on that team whereas Livers and Dickinson were asked to score the points. I imagine that will continue for Livers in the NBA as defense is not primarily where his skills lie. As Mr. Simon points out in the video, Livers isn’t going to be protecting the rim any time soon, but he’ll know how to use his size to his advantage on D.
It is going to be hard for Livers to get consistent minutes barring major injury(ies). He would also have to be a big exception in terms of second rounders who get lots of minutes in year one. Just go back and look at any draft class and the guys picked at 40 or below rarely find regular minutes in year one. And on this Pistons team, the money is the motivation when it comes to who is getting playing time and Livers is not jumping free agent additions or the guys that re-signed.
However, I do imagine with the team moving on from Sekou that Livers is going to see SOME of those minutes as what he did well in college (shoot and play team defense) is what the team was hoping Sekou would be able to show on a consistent basis going into year 3 of his NBA career. But Trey Lyles also possesses the shooting and a bigger contract so I would guess he is going to get first crack at the Sekou minutes.
Again, to circle back to the Nwora role, expect Livers to split time between the Cruise and the main roster and expect him to keep the spacing high whether waiting for a Cade pass in the corner or picking-and-popping with Saben Lee handling the rock. Let us know what you think Livers will look like in year one and overall how you feel about his chances sticking in Detroit long-term.