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313 Thoughts: Jaden Ivey’s pull-up shooting, Saddiq Bey’s resurgence, Isaiah Stewart back to the 4 and more

Once the calendar turned to 2023, there has been some promising and concerning trends worth keeping an eye on

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Charlotte Hornets v Detroit Pistons Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images

Welcome to the second 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.

This week, we will take a look at several Pistons finding, and hopefully embracing their comfort zone. Whether that is Jaden Ivey finding a reliable jumper, Saddiq Bey embracing his catch-and-shoot destiny, or Isaiah Stewart finding himself back at the power forward position. We’ll also explore why they heck Ivey doesn’t seem to be finding any success near the basket.

3 Things to Like

Detroit Pistons v Philadelphia 76ers Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

LIKE: Jaden Ivey’s jump-shooting prowess

Entering the NBA out of Purdue, many questioned Ivey’s ability to knock down perimeter looks. After showing signs of outside shooting improvement during his sophomore campaign at Purdue, Ivey closed his collegiate career converting on 25% of outside looks (last 15 games).

Ivey displayed marginal enhancements to begin his professional career, shooting 31% from deep in his first 20 games. However, the atheistic of his jump-shot still mirrored many of the flaws which plagued him in college. The lack of overall poise and balance from the waist down on Ivey’s release also lead to the rookie struggling to convert in the mid-range area.

Now with three months of NBA experience, Ivey’s beginning to find a rhythm when launching jumpers, the hours spent refining his perimeter touch is beginning to payoff. In the last week he showed off his full repertoire of shot creation abilities:

In three outings last week, Ivey shot the ball with extreme efficiency on pull-up attempts. Per tracking data, he knocked down 66.7% (12-of-18) of his 2-point pull-ups and nailed 60% (3-of-5) of 3-point attempts off the bounce.

While the last week was impressive, the enhancements to Jaden’s jump-shot have been evident since the beginning of 2023. From Jan 1., the former Boilermaker has cashed in on an impressive 49% of mid-range attempts and 37% of triple-tries, per Cleaning the Glass.

LIKE: Catch and shoot Saddiq is the best version of Saddiq

Since bursting onto the scene as a gun-slinging rookie and earning All-Rookie First-Team honors, Bey has rightfully looked to expand his offensive role with Detroit. The results have been mixed. Bey has struggled to cohesively pair high-percentage spot shooting with his self-created offense. While he still has a whole career ahead of him, it feels like the catch-and-shoot version of Bey will lead to a larger contract extension for the 22-year-old.

Since New Year’s Day, it appears that Bey has made a shift in his outside shooting approach. His catch and shoot attempts and efficiency have both increased since Jan. 1, knocking down 42.4% of his 4.4 looks.

The shift in approach has resulted in Bey’s most effective stretch of the season, with the burly wing scoring 17.2 points on 40.2% shooting from distance since the turn of the calendar year.

Last week alone, Bey averaged a shade under 22 points (21.7) on excellent efficiency. Even with a fluctuating spot in the rotation, Bey’s renewed focus on catch-and-shoot attempts has held him in good stead thus far and hopefully results in another strong close to the current season.

LIKE: Jalen Duren asserting himself as a rim protector

Theres little question that Jalen Duren will one day be an interior force on the defensive end. His athletic profile alone oozes defensive dominance and in the last two weeks Duren has strung together his most consistent stretch as a rim protector.

In his past seven outings, Duren is denying 1.6 shots a night, totaling a block in each game of this span—the most (7) consecutive games he’s record a block. On top of the increased block rate, Duren has suffocated opponents at the rim with his 7-foot-5 wingspan, holding opponents to a lowly 52.4% when shooting within 6ft of the basket:

Duren’s timing has improved by leaps and bounds of late, not only is he timing him jump better, but his more astute defensive rotations have opened up additional opportunities for Duren to make defensive plays.

1 Thing not to like

Charlotte Hornets v Detroit Pistons Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images

DISLIKE: Ivey’s finishing woes

I opened this piece by highlighting Jaden’s improvement as a jump-shooter since the start of the New Year. Well, in the same time frame Detroits prized rookie has struggled to convert anything around the basket.

Per Cleaning the Glass, Ivey ranks in the 7th percentile amongst guards as a finisher at the rim, since Jan. 1. In the past few weeks, Ivey has burst his way to the basket only to miss the easiest of looks:

The vast majority of these misses at the basketball seem to be a result of Ivey still trying to figure out how soft to lay the ball up when barreling into the painted area. Long-term, I don’t see this as an issue, in fact, I’d be surprised if the rookie doesn’t show flashes of improvement post All-Star break.

3 Things to monitor

Charlotte Hornets v Detroit Pistons Photo by Chris Schwegler/NBAE via Getty Images

MONITOR: Isaiah Stewart’s return to the 4

The Stew at the 4 experiment has been one of the more exciting developments to monitor with this young Pistons team. Envisioning a future front-court with two physically imposing bigs such as Stewart and Duren aligns with successful Piston front-courts of the past.

Prior to a 3-game absence in mid-January, the Stewart and Duren pairing had flashed plenty of potential, particularly at the defensive end. However, following Stewarts aforementioned injury absence—with Marvin Bagley already out and the coaching staff with-holding Noel from the rotation—Stewart was deployed as the teams back-up center.

While theres certain matchups Detroit’s undersized big-man can thrive with pure strength, playing Stewart at the center position more often than not exposes his flaws. Hence why his return to the starting line-up was to the delight of many.

In two-games as the starting power forward last week, Stewart averaged a monster 12.5 point and 12.5 rebound double-double. Most notably, he dished out 8 assists, including a career-high 6 assists (to 0 turnovers!) against the Charlotte Hornets:

Impressively, Stewart took at least one dribble on 4 out of his 6 assists. Further demonstrating his improved vision, especially when attacking off opponent close-outs.

MONITOR: Pistons interested in extending Alec Burks

Yahoo Sports, Jake Fischer reported last Saturday that Detroit are interested in extending veteran guard Alec Burks beyond the 2023-2024 season:

“The same goes for veteran guard Alec Burks, who has a $10.5 million team option for the 2023-24 season. The Pistons are expected to explore signing Burks to a new contract, league sources told Yahoo Sports, just as Detroit did with Bogdanovic earlier in the season.”

Offering Burks a contract extension fits in line with Detroits reported aspirations to contend for next season. The 31 year-old Burks could help a number of teams vying for the playoffs and I’m sure the Pistons could fetch a neat return of the crafty shot creator. However, if Troy Weaver and company are serious about climbing the standings, keeping veterans like Burks and Bojan Bogdanovic around will be vital for team success a year from now.

In 41 games with the Pistons Burks has arguably been the teams second-best scoring option behind fellow veteran Bogdanovic. He’s averaging 13.4 points on 45.2% field goal percentage in predominantly a bench role.

Detroit Pistons v Philadelphia 76ers Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images

MONITOR: A quiet trade-deadline for Detroit?

The mere fact I’ve typed this probably means Troy Weaver is on the cusp of making several trades. However, according to James Edwards III of The Athletic, of Detroit’s three most discussed trade candidates—Bogdanovic, Burks and Bey—Bey appears to be the most likely moved, even if it would occur in surprising fashion:

“in talking to people around the league, it does appear that of Bogdanović, Burks and Bey, the latter may be the most gettable. However, a few league sources have recently told The Athletic that they would be surprised if Bey is traded.”

While Bey has found his stride of late, there are overlapping strengths and weaknesses in he and Bojan Bogdanovic’s game. The defensive pairing of Bey and Bogdanovic has given up a disastrous 118.4 points per 100 possessions, making it tough for Coach Casey to deploy winning line-ups featuring these two on the wings. On the other-end of the floor, Bogdanovic’s efficiency as a shooter and shot creator far exceeds Bey.

In many ways, the peak version of Bey projects to offer what Bogdanovic provides in the current day. Hence, with the teams recent commitment to keeping Bogdanovic, flipping the Villanova product at the deadline could make sense, even if it’s unlikely.

Edwards III also noted that Noel has received interest from multiple teams:

“Per league sources, the Heat, Nuggets, Mavericks, Kings, 76ers and Celtics have recently called the Pistons and inquired about Noel.”

With the coaching staff still refusing to play Noel in the wake of Marvin Bagley injury, it feels almost certain that Noel is shipped out to another team for a minimal return.

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