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313 Thoughts: Jalen Duren’s superior passing, Killian’s free throws, Bagley’s scoring punch, and more

As the season winds down, it is important to take stock of what Detroit’s stable of big men can and cannot do on the floor

Miami Heat v Detroit Pistons Photo by Chris Schwegler/NBAE via Getty Images

Welcome to the latest 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.

3 Things to Like

LIKE: Jalen Duren’s passing vision

At only 19 years old, Jalen Duren has already proven he’s got what it takes to be a premier rim-running big in the NBA. His chiseled frame and broad shoulders at 6-foot-11 make for a brutal force on the interior at both ends of the floor.

The teenager’s knack for rebounding and dunks at the rim often catch the eye of onlookers. But, if you’ve been keyed in on the Pistons this season you’ve also seen Duren’s tantalizing potential as a passer.

He currently leads all rookie centers in assists, but it’s Duren processing ability and overall unselfishness as the league’s youngest player that should have Detroit fans most excited.

In Friday night’s road outing against the Toronto Raptors, Duren tied a career high in assists (4), dishing out a number of impressive passes to his teammates:

  • With a bevy of lengthy Raptors defenders at his doorstep, Duren could easily become flustered and force a tough shot. Instead, he calmly hits the open cutter:
  • Again, Duren finds himself in the key smothered by Raptors defenders, instead of rushing into a shot or chaotic pass, he gathers himself, recognizes the double team and drops a bounce pass to Eugene Omoruyi:

LIKE: Marvin Bagley with a jump shot

Marvin Bagley scored a season-high 31 points (one point shy of his career high) in Detroit’s blowout loss to the Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday night. While the scoring outburst came in yet another demoralizing defeat, the manner in which Bagley registered his points is noteworthy.

The 24-year-old converted 12 of his 19 field goal attempts, six makes coming via jumpshots (and four three-point makes). Following the James Wiseman trade, a constant source of conversation has surrounded Detroit’s front court rotation functionality, with Bagley often mentioned as the ‘odd man out’ amongst the group of Stewart, Wiseman and Duren.

If Bagley can find a way to consistently shoot the ball like he did agains the Hawks, the conversation changes. Bagley will likely always struggle defensively, but the potential of a floor-spacing big with his proficiency as a roll man could provide Detroit an impactful ‘point-a-minute’ type player off the bench.

LIKE: Vets staying ready

The term “staying ready” is thrown around alot in the NBA universe, but Detroit’s veteran duo of Rodney McGruder and Cory Joseph deserve praise for their efforts in recent weeks. Each missed the Pistons’ last game in Toronto, but in the five games prior had been arguably the team’s best performers.

In this span, McGruder posted nightly averages of 15.2 points, 6.4 rebounds and 1.6 steals on a scintillating 47.2% from deep (7.2 three-point attempts).

Equally as productive, Joseph put fourth 15.0 points and 3.6 assists whilst shooting 46.9% from the field in the recent 5-game stretch.

While their existence on the court may frustrate fans at times, Joseph’s and McGruder’s off-court leadership and steadying presence on-court is sorely needed. If Troy Weaver and company are truely looking to make a jump in the Eastern Conference next season, filling out the roster with reliable, high character pro’s will be essential in guiding the young core to greater heights.

1 Thing to Dislike

DISLIKE: Wiseman’s three-point shot

Look, I completely understand now is the time to see IF Wiseman can provide a semblance of floor spacing. In order for Detroit’s glut of big men to be able to co-exist, Isaiah Stewart can’t be the only floor spacer (and he is still a theoretical one at that). One of Bagley, Duren or Wiseman needs to show they can knock down jumpers in order to have a shot at effectively playing alongside one another.

Since debuting for Detroit in mid-February, Wiseman is shooting 21% from distance on minimal attempts (less than one per game). Across his brief three-year career, the 22-year-old has shot a marginally better percentage of 29.6% from three-point land.

The math is bad on Wiseman three-point attempts and the shooting mechanics leave a lot to be desired. It feels like a fair majority of his attempts have looked like this:

There’s certainly a world where Wiseman can shoot the ball, maybe it would be more beneficial to focus on 15-footers for the moment. Become comfortable in the mid-range, then step out to the three point line.

3 Things to Monitor

MONITOR: Killian figuring out ways to draw free-throws

Drawing contact and generating trips to the free-throw line hasn’t been a strong suit of Killian Hayes since entering the NBA. In his time with the Pistons, Hayes has often shied away from contact when driving into the lane, preferring tough lefty leaner shots in favor of attacking the rim.

As a result, in 160 career outings, the French point guard is averaging 1.1 free throw attempts per game. However, the arrival of veteran Alec Burks appears to be having an affect on Hayes’ foul-drawing ways. Whilst slender in stature and a below-the-rim scorer, Burks is exceptional at drawing contact on drives and pull-up jumpers.

Burks does an excellent job of creating and absorbing contact while attempting a shot, in turn drawing free throws. In recent weeks, it appears Hayes has adopted two of his veteran teammates’ grifting methods:

  • ‘The shoulder lean-in’
    Here, the ball handler drives shoulder-to-shoulder with the defender, instead of continuing on a direct path to the basket, the offensive player brushes shoulders with the defender as they attempt to hoist a floater:
  • ‘The subtle rip-through’
    In recent years, the NBA eliminated the infamous ‘rip-through’ method many of the games stars utilized to draw free throws. However, the rip-through motion is built into the gather of Burks’ jump shot (see below). He’s able to catch defender reaching arm as he brings the ball from his hip up to the release point. Hayes has also shown a willingness to make reaching defenders pay:

In the month of March, Hayes has doubled his free-throw attempts, averaging an admittedly still paltry 2.1 freebies a night. He still has a ways to go, but if he can continue to increase this number, his offensive efficiency will too.

MONITOR: Dual sleeve Ivey

Since adopting the dual-sleeve look on March 16, Jaden Ivey has played some of his least effective basketball, shooting 37.0% from the field and coughing up 4.3 turnovers in 4 games.

Personally, I don’t mind the look made famous by Carmelo Anthony in the 2010s, however, things don’t seem to be working out for Detroits rookie.

(I say all this with tongue in cheek, let’s hope Jaden can close the season strong, dual sleeves or not).

Detroit Pistons v Toronto Raptors Photo by Vaughn Ridley/NBAE via Getty Images

MONITOR: Detroit’s lottery position

Following the Charlotte Hornets shocking back-to-back victories over the Dallas Mavericks, Detroit has now cemented itself in place for a bottom-3 (or top-3) finish in the NBA (lottery) standings.

Whilst the Pistons were never going to close the season on an eight-game win streak, the Hornets capturing their 25th win makes it mathematically impossible for the 16-win Pistons to eclipse Charlotte in the standings.

Per, Detroit has the second-easiest schedule remaining of the current bottom-3 placed teams. The Houston Rockets have the easiest remaining crop of games, while the San Antonio Spurs face the toughest set of opponents to close the season.

Of the aforementioned trio, only one game remains between them with Detroit scheduled to visit Houston this Friday, March 31—I absolutely can’t wait to see what line-ups are trotted out for this clash.

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