Speed, athleticism, first-step. Those were some of the first words you heard when talking to people about Jaden Ivey through the 2023 NBA Draft process. Less heralded but easily apparent during his first preseason with the Detroit Pistons has been his passing and creation for teammates.
Honestly, you probably would have found more questions about his abilities and willingness as a passer during the draft process than you would people considering it a major plus. He did average 3.1 assists in his sophomore season at Purdue playing in an offense with two bigs and an often clogged paint that was not always available for him to break down defenses.
While he may not be an extremely high-level read guy, Jaden Ivey has shown plenty of signs early on that he will be a guard who can create open opportunities for his teammates. And yes, some of those opportunities are created by the aforementioned speed, athleticism and first step.
We knew that Ivey would be successful in transition early on in his career. His physical attributes play right into that, but he has still impressed with the amount of pressure he puts on defenses and his willingness to distribute the ball to teammates running with him.
Where Ivey clearly shines in the open floor, he’s performed surprisingly well in the half-court. Even more important, he has shown an affinity to do this with the ball in his hands as well as playing off the ball.
The 6-foot-4 guard is certainly making rookie mistakes, but the building blocks are all there. The passing opportunities have been amplified by some of the more nuanced things you would like to see: snaking screens, putting the defender in jail, and playing with some change of speed.
He also uses that quick first step to attack in isolation, drawing multiple defenders into the lane and then kicking to the weak side for an open three-pointer or dumping off to a big in the dunker spot. It is also worth highlighting some of the passes he has made along the baseline where he seems to be comfortable operating.
One of the biggest questions about Ivey’s transition to the NBA and Detroit Pistons was what ability he had to play off the ball. In these four pre-season games, we got glimpses of his off-the-ball movement creating these same opportunities via cuts from the weak side and attacking as a second-side creator.
Ivey being able to create with the ball in his hands as well as on a ball reversal or kick out on a teammate's drive provides great versatility for his offensive game. It is vital that the catch-and-shoot 3-pointer, just 2-of-14 from three in pre-season, continues to develop so he can attack closeouts from recovering defenders.
Now, it is not always going to be perfect or look pretty with Jaden Ivey. He did have fourteen turnovers, including a seven-turnover game, to go along with his sixteen assists in the four games we saw this pre-season.
He is absolutely going to get sped up, get out of control, and make the wrong read at times, but these are not uncommon for a rookie or something to be overly worried about until a couple years into the youngster's NBA career as long as we see signs of progress.
While he may not be that highest level of read player, he has been trusted by Dwane Casey to be the inbounder in BLOB situations and has made some really nice passes in these possessions. He also used some necessary eye manipulation on a backdoor assist to Cade Cunningham against the New York Knicks, showing those more nuanced parts of passing and creation could develop over time.
Adding Jaden Ivey’s creation ability to an overall backcourt that already has very good passers in Cade Cunningham and Killian Hayes is very intriguing. It gives the Pistons three young guards who you feel like can create open looks for teammates,