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313 Thoughts: Budding Rookie chemistry, Killian’s return to the bench, Pistons interest in former Michigan Wolverine and more

With Hayes shifted to the bench, Jaden Ivey showed encouraging progress as the teams starting point guard.

NBA Paris Games 2023 - Detroit Pistons Practice and Media Availability Photo by Chris Schwegler/NBAE via Getty Images

Welcome to the first installment of my 313 Thoughts, your weekly recap of all things Detroit Pistons.

Each week Jack Kelly highlights all the relevant news, rumors and on-court play while embracing Detroit’s 313 identity. The formula is simple—I’ll detail; 3 Things to like, 1 Thing not to like and 3 Things to monitor.

The last week of play for the Detroit Pistons was up and down to say the least. A blowout loss (standard) to the Milwaukee Bucks was followed by an encouraging road win against the Brooklyn Nets.

In the third and final game of the week against the Houston Rockets, after building an early 12-point lead over the league’s worst team (by record), the Pistons were outworked in demoralizing fashion, losing by three points.

However amidst a week of frustration (feel like I’ll be saying this a lot), there were still signs of growth and things for fans to feel good about.

3 Things to like:

Sacramento Kings v Detroit Pistons Photo by Brian Sevald/NBAE via Getty Images

Jaden Ivey and Jalen Duren forming chemistry

Detroit’s duo of prized lottery picks featured heavily within Detroits attack this past week. With Killian Hayes resided to back-up duties (we’ll get to this later), Jaden Ivey was given full reign to the Piston offense.

Predictably, he produced his share of head scratching moments coughing up 4.3 turnovers a night—that’s just what rookie guards do. However, the 20 year-old combo-guard also had arguably his best week orchestrating the offense, dishing out 24 assists in 3 games.

Ivey connected with Duren on a number of impressive passes, assisting his rookie counterpart on 10 separate occasions:

Watching Ivey fire on-point passes to Duren out of pick-and-roll action was particularly encouraging considering the Purdue products noted struggles to create in the mid-range area.

With the same token, Duren’s improvement at navigating space offensively also aided Ivey’s enhanced passing chops. Aside rolling to the basket with force, he did an excellent job of communicating with Ivey on cuts to the basket by keeping his hands chest high and ready to catch on a moments notice.

Pistons beat writer Omari Sankofa of the Detroit Free Press noted before the Pistons meeting with the Houston Rockets; “Casey said the two [Duren and Ivey] have been working together after practices”. And it appears some the extra reps are beginning to paying dividends.

Detroit’s most effective player — Hamidou Diallo

Hamidou Diallo has been on a tear since the turn of the calendar year. After struggling to solidify a position in Dwane Casey’s rotation, the five year veteran has established himself as the roster most effective player since January 1st.

Diallo has often been the subject of frustration amongst fans with his chaotic style of play, but in recent weeks he’s rained in the ‘what the hell’ moments and stamped his authority with countless winning plays:

The numbers reflect what we’ve seen on court, with Diallo being the sole Piston to have a positive net rating in the new year (excluding two-way guard, Jared Rhoden).

In the past week Diallo posted 13 points, 3 rebounds and 3 steals in only 19 minutes of action a night. Providing his team with a much needed jolt of energy from the bench.

Don’t sleep on Isaiah Livers’ athleticism

I’m not sure if it’s because he was an older second-round draft pick, the fact he’s suffered various injuries or simply because he was dubbed a perimeter marksman coming out of Michigan, but Isaiah Livers reminded everyone this week he can jump out of the gym:

In his brief time with Detroit, Livers has shown an uncanny ability to block unsuspecting opponents from behind. On the flip-side, his dunk of Rockets center, Bruno Fernando, was certainly something Livers hasn’t shown a lot of since entering the NBA.

Considering Detroits lack of athleticism on the wings, Livers vertical pop is a welcomed addition to the roster—even it’s purely for watchability purposes.

1 Thing not to like:

Cleveland Cavaliers v Detroit Pistons Photo by Brian Sevald/NBAE via Getty Images

Pistons reported interest in Caris LeVert

Sam Amico of Hoops Wire, reported on Thursday; “So far everyone from the Pistons to the Hornets to Clippers and Jazz has expressed an interest in LeVert.” Amico later noted, “right now, decent offers for LeVert don’t seem to be out there. And the Cavs are far from determined to trade him, sources said.”

It’s well known by now that Cleveland have been looking to upgrade their talent on the wing and LeVert has been a name mentioned in rumors as a trade center piece for some time now. In his 7th year as a pro, LeVert is currently producing 12 points and four assists on 41% shooting for Detroit division rival. It’s also important to note the former-Wolverine is on an expiring $18.8 million contract

Though a trade seems unlikely, Detroit have been linked to LeVert in the past and it’s likely there’s free agency discussions this summer between LeVert’s camp and the Pistons. And while a Michigan reunion would be poetic, LeVert’s iso-centric style of play doesn’t appear to be a need for this iteration of the Pistons roster.

Ball movement has been a major issue for the offense and another average shooting ball stopper could stunt the young cores growth. Not to mention LeVert would be seeking an 8-figure extension come July.

3 Things to monitor:

Detroit Pistons v Washington Wizards Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Killian back to the bench, for now

Much to the dismay of the Piston faithful, Killian Hayes returned from a one-game absence to find himself in the role of back-up point guard. Coach Casey cited: “Competing, not digging ourselves in a hole” for his insertion of Alec Burks to the starting group.

In the first game of the re-jigged line-up, both the starters and bench played with terrific synergy. Killian finished with an efficient 16 points and was pivotal down the stretch of the Brooklyn Nets win:

Adding another veteran in Burks alongside Bogdanovic paid dividends with the Pistons outscoring the Nets in each of the first and third quarters, avoiding any of Coach Casey’s proverbial ‘holes’. Jaden Ivey also benefitted with the addiontal wise head alongside him, dishing out 8 assists to 3 turnovers.

However in the ensuing game against the Rockets, after leading the team in a third quarter comeback down 12 points, Casey elected to bench Hayes to close the game. The offense lacked flow without the frenchman, who finished the night with 7 assists and 0 turnovers.

It will be interesting to see if Casey sticks to his pre-game comments of keeping the starting line-up ‘fluid’ based on results. While benching Ivey seems unlikely, his playmaking struggles (5 assists to 6 turnovers) against the lowly-Rockets call for the consideration of Hayes being re-acclimated to the starting group.

Detroit Pistons v New York Knicks Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

Jalen Duren’s improved FT shooting

In his lone season at Memphis, Detroits rookie big-man struggled at the line, converting 63% of his 3.6 free throw attempts per game. The shooting mechanics were OK, and Duren flashed glimpses of outside touch with a 15-foot jumper.

In his first month as a pro, Duren’s shooting at the charity stripe went from below average to damn right awful as he shot 38% on freebies in the month of October.

However, after a paltry start, Duren has improved his free throw conversion with each passing month. In November he knocked down 57% of 23 attempts, December he progressed to 67% and so far in the month of January he’s registering points on 82% of his free throws.

In the past week, Duren almost went perfect from the line shooting 11/12.

Detroits lack of ball movement

Per, on the season Detroit rank:

  • #28th in total passes per game — 263.0 passes
  • #6 in average seconds per touch — 3.32 secs.
  • #3 in average dribbles per touch — 2.68 dribbles

The above numbers result in ALOT of these possessions:

The current Piston roster is devoid of ‘ball movers’ or connector type role players. It’s why Isaiah Livers has been important to this team. He’s one of the few players who looks to pass first.

In the above clip, if Bey were to quickly lob a pass to Duren on the roll, the Nets baseline defender would be forced to rotate, therefore opening up a corner three point look for Alec Burks.

These are the simple opportunities Detroit have missed by electing to isolate in lieu of quick passing decisions.

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