In a whirlwind of a night, your Detroit Pistons came out of the 2022 NBA Draft as huge lottery winners. For the third straight season, Troy Weaver and the front office appear to have clinched the draft with the picks 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 from this summer’s class. It’s fair to say that extremely fun nights lie ahead with Duren and Ivey’s injection into the Pistons. Restoration.
We’ve been blessed with some incredible draft coverage here at DBB recently, and I thought it might be worth doing an exercise recapping the kind of players the Motor City have in Ivey and Duren. In addition, also determine the impact that each young person could have with the 2022-2023 list.
Jaden Ivey, Guard
Statistics 2021-2022: 17.3 points, 4.9 rebounds and 3.1 assists, in 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 arguably the most explosive ball handler in this year’s draft crop. Following a strong showing as a freshman, the 20-year-old returned to college, putting together an ultra-impressive sophomore campaign, increasing his value among NBA teams and placing him firmly in the top echelon of prospects.
Although we have yet to see Ivey suit up in royal blue and red, on paper he appears to be slipping into a secondary starter role alongside Cade Cunningham in Detroit’s backcourt. The newfound duo combine a variety of complementary skills, giving the Motor City its most dynamic rear end since…dare I say it, the Bad Boy era. Ok, I’m getting ahead of myself!
Now, let’s look at some areas where the Pistons’ latest distributor can make an impact as a rookie.
From day one, Jaden Ivey exhibits a superior combination of size, strength, and speed on the current roster. The All-American shooting guard provides Detroit with a nasty play finisher in transition. Whether he has the ball or runs down the lane, Ivey is an absolute blur on the fast break. The 20-year-old’s ability to wreak havoc on the open court is a welcome addition to a team that often struggled to convert fast-break points.
Ivey’s driving and finishing ability dovetails nicely with his dominance as a flat-track bully. As a sophomore, he shot 58% looks around the basket, displaying the ability to convert a variety of spikes. The Boilermaker showed a knack for using his superior hang time to avoid opposing shot blockers, while also having the flexibility to adjust and finish mid-air attempts as a counter to well-timed strike attempts.
Though the handle and midgame lack polish, Ivey was still able to generate plenty of pressure at the rim in college. The initial burst he generated from the catch created some turnstile moments for his defenders, providing a clue for Ivey to attack the basket, holding the bigs hostage as they often had to foul or allow the guard to Dynamite will score the easiest points.
The Indiana native reached the charity streak almost 6 (5.8) times per game. His tenacious, high-contact approach should apparently translate to NBA free throws. If Ivey can get to the line as often as he did at the college level, his offensive value increases significantly as a rookie.
In his debut season with Detroit, the two biggest areas of improvement for Ivey are outside shooting and defensive attention.
In his first 21 games of the 2021-2022 season, Ivey shot the lights from a distance, landing 43.6% of outside looks. However, in his last 15 outings, the second-year guard converted a lackluster 25.6% of 3-point attempts, which was, alarmingly, worse than his first-year efficiency of 25.8%. The question now arises, is Ivey closer to his 36% sophomore season percentage, or is he a sub-30% guy behind the arc?
Also, while the jumper doesn’t appear to suffer from significant mechanical failure, Ivey may need to speed up his release as an adjustment to the rigors of NBA-level shutdowns. This could also provide an efficiency delay of three points.
When it comes to defense, Ivey has all the physical tools to lock down opposing guards. However, as a sophomore, his defensive consistency often faded. Though he may have the physical traits, Ivey’s porous application of these traits resulted in a number of off-the-ball lapses and errors. Although the awareness issues are far from ideal, Detroit fans should take comfort in having Dwane Casey as Ivey’s head coach. It’s common knowledge now that you have to be able to defend consistently to gain playing time with the former Coach of the Year.
Jalen Duren, Center
Statistics 2021-2022: 12.1 points, 8.1 rebounds and 2.1 blocks, in shooting splits of 60/0/63
Jalen Duren is Troy Weaver’s kind of guy, listed at 6’11 with a frame chiseled from granite; the 18-year-old is an absolute physical specimen. Though his previous draft record with Detroit hasn’t featured a lot of rebounding, Weaver earned a reputation with the Oklahoma City Thunder as a guy in love with tantalizing athleticism. Like Ivey, Duren is the most genetically gifted player at his position in this year’s draft.
After a poor 9-8 start to the season, Duren played a central role in turning around the fortunes of the Memphis Tigers, closing out the year winning 13 of 16 games and finishing with an impressive 22 wins. The Philadelphia native’s defensive dominance was on full display all season, capped off by a 20-point, 20-rebound performance against the University of Central Florida in an American Athletic Conference Championship game.
Although his offense is limited, Duren has a lot to offer on defense in his debut season.
First of all, Cade Cunningham has to be rubbing his hands thinking of Duren as a roll-man. The phrase jumpy-jump, which has become popular in the DBB community (credit to Laz!), perfectly sums up Duren’s offensive profile.
The combination of a 7.5 wingspan and ridiculous bounce provides an atrocious catch radius in lob situations. So the vertical space Duren offers inside seems to benefit Detroit’s anemic half-court offense from a season ago. It was abundantly clear how much Cunningham’s game benefited when he shared the court with a stretchy great like Marvin Bagley III. Unlike Bagley III, though, Duren is predicted to be a plus defensive player. It’s on this side of the floor that the former five-star recruit will earn his rookie stripes.
In his only season in Memphis, Duren was dominant as an interior defender, the endless span given to his shoulders acting as an intimidating block to the opposing basket. Duren’s presence as a rim protector exceeds 2.1 strokes per game, he showed a veteran’s discipline, often choosing verticality over the opportunity to squash opponents’ shots in the stands. For an 18-year-old, the maturity shown is an encouraging sign for him to transition to the pros.
In terms of defensive positioning, Duren was deployed primarily in drop coverage, with the Memphis coaching staff aiming to funnel opponents to the 6-foot-11 behemoth at the rim. He thinks of Rudy Gobert with the Utah Jazz defensive style. While the drop defensive style helps to better accentuate Duren’s ability to hit hard, his overall mobility should lend itself to situational changes and pick-and-roll blitzes.
Finally, the Duren has an incredibly tall engine, which shouldn’t go unnoticed. He’s an absolute terror on the offensive glass, and he loved running in transition for fast break finishes. Whatever role he plays on the team as a rookie, Duren will almost certainly produce consistent productivity for his team.
Unlike Ivey, Duren’s game warts are easier to negate in his inaugural NBA season. At the college level, the 18-year-old’s most common type of game was the post. With his back to the basket, Duren shot a dismal 40% from the field. The solution for this is simple, delete the post completely. Considering that traditional publishing is on the verge of extinction in the professionals, this modification should be easy.
The two main areas of growth worth monitoring for the Memphis product come in the form of finishing and defense in space. Overall, Duren shot an efficient 70.9% around the rim. However, when he faced a big of similar stature, Duren struggled at times to hit the basket. If he couldn’t overpower his opponent, Duren lacked the brilliance to use his left hand or chain a combination of dribbles to dissuade his opponent. It would be naive to expect a host of new moves in his rookie season, but it’s important that Duren show self-awareness and not try to force every look he gets into the cup.
Finally, it will be interesting to see how Coach Casey handles Duren on defense. In college, Duren showed mixed results as a defender without the ball. At times, he would often over-help, losing his opponent on easy points. With higher levels of talent around Duren, these defensive lapses should be easily corrected.
Comment your thoughts and expectations for Detroit’s new rookie duo below.