Former Purdue Boilermaker and No. 5 overall pick Jaden Ivey has been everything the Detroit Pistons could have hoped for through the first 23 games of his rookie season.
The 6-foot-4 guard is averaging 15.5 points per game, good for 3rd amongst all rookies behind only No. 1 overall pick Paolo Banchero and Indiana Pacers guard Bennedict Mathurin.
If you want to apply some deeper looking metrics to his scoring, via cerebro.com, he again comes in 3rd (behind Banchero and Mathurin) in their overall point scoring prowess metric.
That scoring mark also puts Ivey second on the Detroit Pistons in points per game behind Bojan Bogdanovic if you omit Cade Cunningham who has now missed the majority of the season so far and doesn’t appear close to returning to the lineup.
The Cerebro metrics again will back this up as he comes in 3rd on the team, behind Bogdanovic and Alec Burks, in the point scoring prowess.
Ivey has also brought other value on the offensive end with his passing. A skill that I highlighted during the pre- and post-draft process that I felt was being undervalued and would be better than advertised.
Ivey is no stranger to rookie mistakes, averaging 2.7 turnovers per game, but he also consistently pressures the defense. This pressure helps get his teammates wide open looks, and if said teammates could hit said shots, Ivey would be averaging even more than 4 assists per game. Those four assists, by the way, bring him in second amongst all rookies behind only the Pacers’ Andrew Nembhard.
With all of that said, it is always important to keep one eye looking forward to what the next progression in a player’s game needs to be. There are legitimate arguments for a few areas of Ivey’s game.
The defense has definitely been below league average, but that is not at all uncommon for a rookie guard. There is hope with the physical tools he possesses that he grows into an adequate defender over the next couple of seasons.
On the offensive end of the court, it really comes down to two different levels of scoring the basketball. The 3-point and the mid-range shots.
Right now, Ivey is not particularly good at either. He is shooting just 31% on 4.7 attempts per game from behind the 3-point line and is 16-of-60 (27%) on mid-range jumpers/floaters, via inSTAT.
While there are legitimate arguments for the 3-point shot being the most important, specifically when talking about the overall roster fit, it is the mid-range that will give the best returns.
Right now, even at 31%, Ivey is able to leverage that shooting percentage to create opportunities to attack the lane. He is simply so fast and explosive that he barely needs a step to create an advantage on his primary defender.
Would it be great to see Ivey bump his 3-point percentage to 35-37%? Yes, but a major improvement in the 27% mid-range percentage would make him nearly impossible to defend in the lane.
Here are some examples of other recent prospects just for some context. These are all via inSTAT and are filtered for the first 23 games of the player’s rookie season and includes “jumpers” and “floaters” only. Most of the attempts that are showing up in the “around the rim” range are actually attempts from on, or outside, the restricted area.
Jaden Ivey (16/60, 27%) vs Ja Morant (39/101, 39%)
Morant, one of the best mid-range floaters in the game now, had more attempts and a better percentage, but notice how much better he was in the 2nd range which is where Ivey really needs to grow.
Jaden Ivey (16/60, 27%) vs Donovan Mitchell (28/85, 33%)
The mid-range is not quite as important for Spida Mitchell due to his ability to knock down 3-point shots, but since he has been brought up as a comp for Ivey he seemed like a logical inclusion
Jaden Ivey (16/60, 27%) vs Cade Cunningham (33/99, 33%)
All Pistons fans know that Cunningham has greatly grown that mid range game, pre-injury, and now does a ton of work with his pull up jump shot at the elbows.
There is no expectation of Jaden Ivey becoming some sort of mid range assassin in the mold of DeMar DeRozan but the thought of him with a resemblance of the floater game of Ja Morant or mid range pull up of Cade Cunningham (or heck, Killian Hayes recently) is just too exciting.
A world where Ivey can get to 10 to 15 feet and legitimately be able to attack the defense with a mid range attempt, leverage that ability into an attempt at the rim or kick out to an open teammate is a scary proposition for opposing defense and would be almost impossible to stop.