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Things to watch for as the Detroit Pistons start Summer League play

Summer League will help the Detroit Pistons answer important questions surrounding some of their most important players.

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NBA: Detroit Pistons at Indiana Pacers Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Detroit Pistons start their Summer League play tonight against the Portland Trail Blazers, where fans will get their first look at the shiny new rookies.

It is inevitable that fans and media alike will label these young players as “future superstars” or “busts” (see the contrasting opinions from Chet Holmgren’s debut and second game), but it should be stated that Summer League performances rarely correlate to regular season success due to the drastic change in talent, skill, and experience level between a Summer League game and an NBA game. Still there are things we can glean from Summer league—especially with so many of the Pistons core players expected to play significant minutes.

Below are the things that Pistons fans should be looking for from the roster.

What’s in Jaden Ivey’s bag?

Jaden Ivey says he’s been working on his mid range game this summer. This will be an important part of his development, along with shooting more consistently from the perimeter. I expect Ivey’s speed and athleticism to be on full display. We are almost assured a highlight reel dunk, or a chase down block in transition, but the real test for Ivey will be seeing what he can do when he has the defense on their heels.

Defensively, I’d like to see consistent effort from Ivey, but I’m admittedly less concerned about this aspect of his game. I’ve seen enough from him on and off the ball to know he is capable to be a high-level defender, and I think the Pistons have the right culture in place to ensure Ivey prioritizes defense. I expect to see him locked in defensively.

Can Jalen Duren anchor a defense and capitalize on opportunities in the post?

Big, fast, strong, athletic—these are labels many would use to describe Jalen Duren. But let’s not forget that Duren is still just 18 years old and he’s only got 29-games on his college resume, most of which were against teams that didn’t field any NBA-level prospects.

For example, against Holmgren and the No. 1 seed Gonzaga Bulldogs, Duren shot just 3-11 from the floor and managed just one block.

Against the No. 8 seed Boise State Broncos Duren was 4-11 from the field and tailed just one block. Blocks aren’t nearly the end all be all in determining a player’s defensive acumen, but a cursory glance at Duren’s game logs from college suggest he had some of his lower performances against better competition.

Shooting around 60% from the post would be an ideal target for Duren, but shooting is just one of the areas I will be watching from him down low. In reviewing his college tape, we’ve seen some above-level passing from the 6-foot-11 big man. If Duren proves as a capable scorer, defenses will have to shift more attention his way, which will put him in position to create from others. What he does with those opportunities when and if they come will be exciting to see.

Has Killian Hayes rounded out his offensive game?

Killian Hayes has proven to be an above average defender and a high level passer. Beyond that, there are significant concerns about Hayes effectiveness as a driver and shooter. The lefty has shown an overreliance on his dominant hand. He has struggled to finish with his right hand, and his jump shooting has actually regressed from year one to year two.

James Edwards III of The Athletic has stated that Killian Hayes “has to dominate, or come close to it” during Summer League play in order for the Pistons to feel comfortable with him moving forward.

For Hayes to do that, he will need to show a more complete offensive game. Hayes in undoubtedly the player with the most pressure on him.

If Isaiah Stewart gets big minutes, will he be able to knock down 3-point shots consistently?

At first glance, it’s a bit of a surprise to see Isaiah Steward, Saddiq Bey, and Cade Cunningham on the Summer League roster. However, we’ve learned that in order for these three players to legally practice with the team, they have to be on the roster.

We know it’s unlikely that Cade plays a game. I’d be shocked to see Saddiq suite up as well. However, Stewart has never played in Summer League, and the Pistons have a lot to sort out in the front court. Specific to Stewart, how does he fit next to a center, and can show enough semblance of a 3-point shot to effectively stretch the floor? Answering these questions will be important for the Pistons long-term.

Does Isaiah Livers look like he belongs?

Isaiah Livers had a shortened NBA rookie season as he recovered from an injury sustained in college and worked his way back to full health. In the 19 games we saw from Livers a season ago, particularly near the end of the regular season, he looked the part as a rotational 3-and-D player. While Livers doesn’t need to “dominate” like Hayes needs to do to cement his role on the team, he does need to show that his shooting the real deal.

If there’s one thing the Pistons lack currently, it’s 3-point shooting. Ideally, Livers finishes Summer League hitting around 40% of his shots from behind the arc, while demonstrates a knack for making the right play offensively, and keeping his man in front of him defensively. If he can do this, and avoid negative plays he should earn minutes as a rotation wing, which has suddenly become a bit more crowded with the additions of Ivey and Burks.