September 25, 2022

In a whirlwind of the night, your Detroit Pistons emerged from the 2022 NBA Draft as big winners of the lottery. For the third season in a row, Troy Weaver and the front office appear to have passed the draft with selections from Purdue guard Jaden Ivey and Memphis center Jalen Duren.

Within hours, Detroit has significantly bolstered its core of athletic talent, taking on arguably the two most impressive athletes in class this summer. It’s fair to say there are such fun nights to come with Duren and Ivey injecting the Pistons Restoration.

We’ve been blessed with some incredible draft coverage here at DBB recently, and I thought it would be useful to recap the type of players Motor City have in Ivey and Duren. Additionally, also determining the impact each youngster could have on the 2022-2023 roster.

Jaden Ivey, guard

Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Statistics 2021-2022: 17.3 points, 4.9 rebounds and 3.1 assists, on 46/36/74 intermediate shots

As was the case in the 2021 draft, Troy Weaver and staff were able to nab the top contender among their draft boards. Ivey is, without a doubt, the most explosive ball handler this year. After a strong freshman year, the 20-year-old returned to college, mounting an ultra-impressive sophomore campaign, increasing his stock among NBA teams and placing him firmly in the top echelon of prospects.

While we’ve yet to see Ivey don the royal blue and red, on paper he appears to be slipping into a sideline starter role alongside Cade Cunningham in Detroit’s backyard. The new duo combine an array of complementary skills, giving Motor City its most vibrant backyard since… dare I say it, the Bad Boy era. Ok – I manage to beat myself!

Now, let’s look at a few areas the Pistons’ latest distributor can make an impact as a rookie.

Rookie Impact

From day one, Jaden Ivey showcases a superior blend of size, strength and speed on the current roster. The All-American guard provides Detroit with a poor game finisher in transition. Whether he has the ball or is leading the way, Ivey is an absolute blur on the break. The 20-year-old’s ability to wreak havoc in the open ground is a welcome addition to a team that has so often struggled to convert quick break points.

Ivey’s driving and finishing ability dovetails well with his dominance as a flat track bully. As a sophomore, he shot 58% on looks around the basket, displaying the ability to convert a variety of finishes. The Boilermaker has demonstrated 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 to counter well-timed strike attempts.

Although the grip and midset lack finish, Ivey was still able to generate a ton of rim pressure in college. The initial flurry he generated on the catch created turnstile moments for his defenders, providing a trail for Ivey to attack the basket, holding the big guys hostage as they often had to foul or allow the guard to dynamite to score the easiest points.

The Indiana native has reached the charity strip nearly 6 (5.8) times per game. His tenacious, contact-heavy approach should apparently translate to NBA free throws. If Ivey can hit the line as often as he did at the college level, his offensive value increases dramatically as a rookie.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA-St.  Peters vs. Purdue

Mitchell Leff – USA TODAY Sports

Growth areas

In his first season with Detroit, Ivey’s two main areas of improvement were outside shooting and defensive attention.

In his first 21 games of the 2021-22 season, Ivey fired the lights from distance, connecting on 43.6% of outside looks. However, in his last 15 outings, the second-year keeper converted a lackluster 25.6% from three-point tries, which was alarmingly worse than his first-year efficiency of 25.8%. . The question now arises, is Ivey closer to his 36% percentage in the second season, or is he a guy under 30% behind the arc?

Additionally, while the jumper doesn’t appear to be suffering from any significant mechanical flaws, Ivey may need to speed up his release to adjust to the rigors of NBA-level fencing. This could also provide for a delay in effectiveness by three points.

When it comes to defense, Ivey has all the physical tools to lock down opposing guards. However, in his second year, his defensive consistency often waned. While he may have the physical traits, Ivey’s porous application of those traits has resulted in a host of off-ball fouls and errors. While awareness issues are less than ideal, Detroit fans should find comfort in having Dwane Casey as Ivey’s head coach. It’s well known by now that you need to be able to defend consistently in order to earn playing time under the former Coach of the Year.

Jalen Düren, Center

NBA: Detroit Pistons - Press conference

Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Statistics 2021-2022: 12.1 points, 8.1 rebounds and 2.1 blocks, on shooting intervals of 60/0/63

Jalen Duren is kind of the Troy Weaver type, listed at 6’11 with a frame chiseled out of granite; the 18-year-old is an absolute physical specimen. Although his draft history with Detroit was not marked by an abundance of rebounds, Weaver earned a reputation with the Oklahoma City Thunder as a guy who loves enticing athleticism. Like Ivey, Duren is the most genetically gifted player at his position in this year’s draft class.

After a poor 9-8 start to the season, Duren played a pivotal role in reversing the fortunes of the Memphis Tiger, closing the year winning 13 of 16 games and finishing with an impressive 22 wins. The Philadelphia native’s defensive dominance was on full display throughout the season, capped off with 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 first season.

Rookie Impact

Above all, Cade Cunningham must be rubbing his hands at the idea that Duren is a roll-man. The expression jumpy-jump, which has become popular among the DBB community (Credit to laz!), sums up Duren’s attacking profile perfectly.

The mix of a 7’5 wingspan and ridiculous bounce provides a blatant catching radius in lob situations. So the vertical spacing Duren provides on the 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 floor with a big rubber band such as Marvin Bagley III. However, unlike Bagley III, Duren plans to be more of a defensive player. It is on this side of the field that the former five-star rookie will earn his rookie stripes.

In his only season at Memphis, Duren dominated as an inside defenseman, the endless span granted to his shoulders acting as an intimidating blockade for the opposing basket. Duren’s presence as a rim protector exceeds 2.1 shots per game, he has shown veteran discipline, often choosing verticality over the ability to crush downed opponents in the stands. For an 18-year-old, the maturity displayed is an encouraging sign for his transition to the pros.

In terms of defensive positioning, Duren has been deployed mostly in drop coverage, with the Memphis coaching staff aiming to funnel opponents into the 6’11 behemoth on the edge. Think Rudy Gobert with the Utah Jazz style defense. While the drop defense style helps accentuate Duren’s striking prowess the best, his overall mobility should lend itself to situational changes and blitzes in the pick and roll.

Finally, Duren has an incredibly tall engine, which should not go unnoticed. He is an absolute terror on the offensive glass and loved to run in transition for quick finishes. Whatever his role in the team as a rookie, it’s almost certain that Duren will produce consistent productivity for his team.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament First Round - Boise State vs. Memphis

Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Growth areas

Unlike Ivey, Duren’s game warts are easier to undo in his first NBA season. At the college level, the 18-year-old’s most common type of play was position up. Back to the basket, Duren shot 40% from the field. The solution to this is simple, eliminate the message completely. Considering that the traditional position is about to disappear among the pros, this modification should be easily done.

The two main growth areas to watch for the Memphis product come in the form of finishing and defense in space. Overall, Duren shot an effective 70.9% around the rim. However, facing a tall of similar stature, Duren sometimes struggled to convert to the basket. While unable to dominate his opposition, Duren lacked the polish to use his left hand or string together a dribbling combination to deter his opponent. It would be naïve to expect a slew of new moves in his rookie season, but it’s important that Duren exercise self-awareness and not try to force every eye he has on the cut.

Finally, it will be interesting to see how Coach Casey handles Duren on defense. In college, Duren posted mixed results as an off-ball defender. Sometimes he often helped too much, losing his opponent for easy points. With higher talent levels around Duren, these defensive lapses should be easily fixable.

Comment below on your thoughts and expectations for Detroit’s new Rookie duo.