In one whirlwind night, your Detroit Pistons emerged as the grand prize winner of the NBA 2022 draft lottery. For the third straight season, Troy Weaver and the front office appear to have hit the draft with selections of Purdue guard Jaden Ivey and Memphis center Jalen Duren.
In just a few hours, Detroit has significantly strengthened its core of athletic talent and brought arguably the two most impressive athletes to this summer’s class. It’s fair to say that with Duren and Ivey injected into the Pistons, such extremely fun nights lie ahead Restoration.
We’ve recently been blessed with some incredible draft coverage here at DBB, and I thought it would be a worthwhile exercise to summarize the type of players Motor City has in Ivey and Duren. It also determines what impact each youngster could have on the 2022-2023 squad.
Jaden Ivey, guard
Statistics 2021-2022: 17.3 points, 4.9 rebounds & 3.1 assists on shot splits of 46/36/74
As with the 2021 draft, Troy Weaver and his staff were able to pull the top pick off their draft boards. Ivey is arguably the most explosive ball handler of this year’s draft crop. After a solid performance as a freshman, the 20-year-old returned to college and put together a most impressive sophomore campaign, increasing his standing among NBA teams and firmly placing him in the top league of prospects.
While we haven’t seen Ivey in royal blue and red yet, on paper he appears to be slipping into a secondary initiator role in Detroit’s backyard alongside Cade Cunningham. The newly formed duo combine a complementary set of skills to offer the Motor City the most dynamic backcourt since…dare I say the bad boy era. Ok – I’m coming too far!
Now let’s look at some areas that the Pistons’ newest distributor can impact as a beginner.
From day one, Jaden Ivey demonstrates a superior mix of size, strength and speed in the current roster. The All-American Guard delivers a nasty play finisher to Detroit in transition. Whether he has the ball or is running on the lane, Ivey is an absolute blur on the break. The 20-year-old’s ability to wreak havoc on the open court is a welcome addition for a team that has so often struggled to convert fastbreak points.
Ivey’s driving and finishing skills pair well with his dominance as a flat track bully. As a sophomore, he shot 58% looks around the basket and demonstrated an ability to convert a variety of finishes. The Boilermaker showed a knack for using his superior hang time to dodge enemy shot blockers, while still having the flexibility to adjust and end mid-air attempts to counter well-timed swat attempts.
Although the grip and interlude lack shine, Ivey was still able to generate a lot of pressure on the rim in college. The initial blast he created on catching made for some turnstile-like moments for his defenders, offering Ivey a runway to attack the basket and holding Bigs hostage as they often had to foul or allow the dynamite guard, the easiest points to achieve.
The Native American reached the charity streak nearly 6 (5.8) times per game. His persistent, contact-heavy approach was apparently to translate into NBA free throws. If Ivey can get on the line as often as he has at the collegiate level, his offensive value as a rookie increases significantly.
In his debut season with Detroit, the two main 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 afar, hitting 43.6% of outside looks. In his last 15 games, however, the guard converted a lackluster 25.6% of three-point attempts as a sophomore, alarmingly worse than his rookie efficiency of 25.8%. The question now begs, is Ivey closer to his second season percentage of 36% or is he a sub-30% guy behind the arc?
Though the jumper doesn’t appear to have any significant mechanical flaws, Ivey may need to speed up his release to adjust to the rigors of NBA-level graduations. This could also delay the three-point efficiency.
In terms of defense, Ivey has all the physical tools to lock in enemy guards. As a sophomore, however, his defensive consistency often faltered. While he may have the physical traits, Ivey’s porous application of those traits resulted in a multitude of errors and off-ball errors. Though the consciousness issues are far from ideal, Detroit fans should find solace in having Dwane Casey as Ivey’s head coach. It is now well known that you have to gain playing time under the former Coach of the Year.
Jalen Düren, center
Statistics 2021-2022: 12.1 points, 8.1 rebounds and 2.1 blocks on shot splits of 60/0/63
Jalen Duren is Troy Weaver’s type, listed at 6’11 with a frame carved out of granite; The 18-year-old is an absolute physical specimen. Although his previous drafting history with Detroit didn’t exactly show an abundance of bounce, Weaver earned a reputation with the Oklahoma City Thunder as a guy who is enthusiastic about enticing athleticism. Like Ivey, Duren is the most genetically gifted player in his position in this year’s draft class.
After a poor 9-8 start to the season, Duren played a pivotal role in turning the tide of the Memphis Tigers. He finished the year winning 13 of 16 games and finished the year with an impressive 22 wins. The Philly native’s defensive dominance was evident throughout the season, capped off by a performance of 20 points and 20 rebounds 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 and foremost, Cade Cunningham has to rub his hands at the thought of Duren as Rollman. The term Jumpy-Jump, which has become popular in the DBB community (Credit to laz!), embodies the offensive profile of Duren.
The mix of a 7ft 5 wingspan and a ridiculous leap makes for an outrageous catch radius in lob situations. As such, the vertical spacing Duren offers on the interior seems to benefit Detroit’s anemic offense a season ago. It was clear how much Cunningham’s game benefited from sharing the floor with a bouncy big like Marvin Bagley III. However, unlike Bagley III, Duren forecasts to be a plus defensive player. It is at this end of the course that the former five-star recruit will earn his spurs as a rookie.
In his lone season at Memphis, Duren dominated as a central defender, the endless wingspan imparted to his shoulders acting as an intimidating block for the opposing basket. Duren’s presence as a rim guard exceeds 2.1 shots per game, he displayed veteran-like discipline and often chose the verticality of the chance to crush opponents shot in the stands. For an 18-year-old, the maturity shown is an encouraging sign for his move to the pros.
In terms of defensive positioning, Duren has been used primarily in drop coverage, with the Memphis coaching staff aiming to steer opponents towards the 6’11 behemoth on the rim. Think Rudy Gobert with the Utah jazz style of defense. Although the drop defense style helps best emphasize Duren’s punching power, his overall mobility should lend itself to situational switching and blitzing in the pick and roll.
Finally, Duren has an incredibly high engine that should not go unnoticed. He’s an absolute terror on the offensive glass and loved running in transition for fast-break finishes. Whatever his role as a rookie on the team, it’s almost certain that Duren will bring consistent productivity to his team.
Unlike Ivey, the warts in Duren’s game are easier to get rid of in his first NBA season. At the college level, the 18-year-old’s most common play type was the post-up. With his back to the basket, Duren shot a horrendous 40% from the field. The solution to this is simple, eliminate the post completely. Given that the traditional post-up is dying out among the pros, this change shouldn’t be a problem.
The two main areas of growth worth watching for the Memphis product are refinement and space defense. Overall, Duren shot an efficient 70.9% around the edge. However, when faced with a big of similar stature, Duren sometimes struggled to convert at the basket. When failing to overpower his opponents, Duren lacked the polish to use his left hand or string together a combination of dribbles to scare off his opponent. It would be naïve to expect a ton of new moves in his rookie season, but it’s important that Duren show confidence and not try to force every look he throws at the trophy.
In conclusion, it will be interesting to see how coach Casey Duren manages on defense. In college, Duren showed mixed results as an off-ball defenseman. Sometimes he often helped too much and lost his opponent for easy points. With higher talent levels around Duren, these defensive mistakes should be easily correctable.
Comment below on your thoughts and expectations for Detroit’s newest rookie duo.