In a whirlwind of a night, your Detroit Pistons came out of the NBA 2022 Draft as major winners of the lottery. For the third consecutive season, Troy Weaver and the front office appear to have nailed the draft with the selections of Purdue guard Jaden Ivey and Memphis center Jalen Duren.
In a matter of hours, Detroit significantly bolstered its core of athletic talent, taking arguably the two most impressive athletes in this summer’s class. It’s fair to say that there are so extremely fun nights ahead with the injection of Duren and Ivey into the Pistons Restoration.
We have been blessed with some incredible draft coverage over here at DBB recently, and I thought it would be worthwhile exercise recapping the type of players the Motor City have in Ivey and Duren. Plus, also determining the impact each youngster could have with the 2022-2023 roster.
Jaden Ivey, Guard
2021-2022 Statistics: 17.3 points, 4.9 rebounds & 3.1 assists, on shooting splits of 46/36/74
As was the case in the 2021 Draft, Troy Weaver and staff were able to nab the top candidate from their draft boards. Ivey is, without question, the most explosive ball handler in this years draft crop. Following a solid freshman showing, the 20 year-old returned to college, putting together an ultra-impressive sophomore campaign, boosting his stock among NBA teams and firmly placing him in the upper echelon of prospects.
Although we have yet to see Ivey don the royal blue and red, on paper, he appears to slide into a secondary initiator role alongside Cade Cunningham in the Detroit back-court. The newfound duo combine an array of complimentary skills, providing the Motor City with its most dynamic back-court since...dare I say it, the Bad Boy era. Ok - I’m getting to ahead of myself!
Now, let’s look at a few areas the Pistons’ latest distributor can impact as a rookie.
From day one, Jaden Ivey exhibits a superior blend of size, strength and speed on the current roster. The All-American guard provides Detroit a nasty play finisher in transition. Whether he’s got the ball or running the lane, Ivey is an absolute blur on the break. The 20 year-old’s ability to wreck havoc in the open floor is a welcome addition to a team that so often struggled to convert fast break points.
Ivey’s driving and finishing ability dovetail nicely with his dominance as a flat track bully. As a sophomore, he shot 58% on looks around the basket, displaying the ability to convert a variety of finishes. The Boilermaker demonstrated a knack for utilizing his superior hang-time to avoid opposing shot blockers, while also having the flexibility to adjust and finish attempts mid-air as a counter to well timed swat attempts.
Although the handle and in-between game lacks polish, Ivey was still able to generate a ton of pressure on the rim in college. The initial burst he generated off the catch made for some turnstile like moments for his defenders, providing a runway for Ivey to attack the basket, holding bigs hostage, as they often had to foul or allow the dynamite guard to score the easiest of points.
The Indiana-native got to the charity stripe almost 6 (5.8) times a game. His tenacious, contact-heavy approach should seemingly translate into NBA free throws. If Ivey can get to the line as often as he did at the collegiate level, his offensive value significantly increases as a rookie.
In his debut season with Detroit, the two main areas of improvement for Ivey come in the way of outside shooting and defensive attentiveness.
In his first 21 games of the 2021-2022 season, Ivey shot the lights out from distance, connecting on 43.6% of outside looks. However, across his last 15 outings, the sophomore guard converted a lackluster 25.6% of three point tries, which was, alarmingly, worse than his freshman efficiency of 25.8%. The question now begs, is Ivey closer to his sophomore season percentage of 36%, or is he a sub-30% guy from behind the arc?
Additionally, although the jumper doesn’t appear to suffer considerable mechanical flaws, Ivey may need to speed up his release as an adjustment to the rigors of NBA-level close outs. This could also provide for a delay in three point efficiency.
As it pertains to defense, Ivey has all the physical tools to lock up opposing guards. However, as a sophomore, his defensive consistency often waned. Although he may have the physical traits, Ivey’s porous application of these traits resulted in a host of off-ball lapses and mistakes. Though the awareness issues are far from ideal, Detroit fans should find comfort in having Dwane Casey as Ivey’s head coach. It’s well known by now that you must be able to consistently defend in order to gain playing time under the former Coach of the Year.
Jalen Duren, Center
2021-2022 Statistics: 12.1 points, 8.1 rebounds & 2.1 blocks, on shooting splits of 60/0/63
Jalen Duren is Troy Weaver’s kinda guy, listed at 6’11 with a frame chiseled from granite; the 18 year-old is an absolute physical specimen. Though his prior draft history with Detroit hasn’t featured an abundance of bounce, Weaver earned a reputation with the Oklahoma City Thunder as a guy that is enamored by tantalizing athleticism. Like Ivey, Duren is the most genetically gifted player at his position in this years draft class.
After a poor 9-8 start to the season, Duren played a focal role in turning the Memphis Tiger’s fortunes around, closing the year winning 13 of 16 games and finishing with an impressive 22 wins. The Philly native’s defensive dominance was on full display throughout the season, capped by a 20 point and 20 rebound performance against the University of Central Florida in an American Athletic Conference Championship game.
Although his offense is limited, Duren has plenty to offer in the way of defense in his debut season.
First and foremost, Cade Cunningham has to be rubbing his hands together at the thought of Duren as a roll-man. The phrase jumpy-jump, that has become popular amongst the DBB community (Credit to Laz!), neatly encapsulates the offensive profile of Duren.
The blend of a 7’5 wingspan and ridiculous bounce provides for an egregious catch radius in lob situations. Thus, the vertical spacing Duren offers on the interior seems to benefit the anemic Detroit half-court offense from a season ago. It was abundantly clear how much Cunningham’s game benefited when sharing the floor with a springy big such as Marvin Bagley III. Though, unlike Bagley III, Duren forecasts to be a plus defensive player. It’s on this end of the court the former five-star recruit will earn his stripes as a rookie.
In his lone season at Memphis, Duren was dominant as an interior defender, the endless wingspan bestowed upon his shoulders acted as an intimidating blockade to the opposing basket. Duren’s presence as a rim protector exceeds the 2.1 swats per game, he displayed veteran-like discipline, often electing verticality over the chance to mash the opponents shot into the stands. For an 18 year-old, the maturity shown is an encouraging sign for his transition to the pros.
In terms of defensive positioning, Duren was primarily deployed in drop coverage, with the Memphis coaching staff aiming to funnel opponents toward the 6’11 behemoth at the rim. Think Rudy Gobert with the Utah Jazz style of defense. Although the drop style of defense helps best accentuate Duren’s swatting prowess, his overall mobility should lend itself to situational switching and blitzing in the pick and roll.
Finally, Duren has an incredibly high motor, which shouldn’t go unnoticed. He’s an absolute terror on the offensive glass, and loved to run in transition for fast-break finishes. Whatever his role on the team is as a rookie, its almost a certainty that Duren will churn out consistent productivity for his team.
Unlike Ivey, the warts in Duren’s game are easier to nullify in his inaugural NBA season. At the collegiate level, the 18 year-old’s most common play type was the post up. With his back to the basket, Duren shot an abysmal 40% from the field. The fix for this is simple, eliminate the post up entirely. Considering the traditional post up is on the verge of extinction in the pros, this alteration should come with ease.
The two primary areas of growth worth monitoring for the Memphis product come in the form of finishing and defending in space. On the whole, Duren shot an efficient 70.9% around the rim. However, when matched with a big of similar stature, Duren struggled at times to convert at the basket. If he wasn’t able to overpower his opposition, Duren lacked the polish to use his left hand or string together a combination of dribbles to deter his opponent. It would be naive to expect a slew of new moves in his rookie season, but it’s important Duren displays self-awareness and doesn’t try to force every look he gets at the cup.
Finally, it will be interesting to see how coach Casey manages Duren on defense. In college, Duren displayed mixed results as an off-ball defender. At times he often over helped, losing his opponent for easy points. With higher levels of talent surrounding Duren, these defensive lapses should be easily correctable.
Comment below your thoughts and expectations for Detroit’s newest Rookie duo.