Isaiah Livers is a very good shooter with projectable size at the NBA level. The new Detroit Pistons forward spent four years at the University of Michigan, where he built up an impressive track record as a shooter. During his four seasons, he was used in various offensive sets, and played alongside several future NBA players. Livers’ role in college was nearly identical to the role he’ll play in the NBA; an off-ball 3-and-D forward.
13.1 PPG, 2.0 APG, 6.0 RPG, 60.5% TS, 19.7% USG, 3.4% STL+BLK%
Second-rounders rarely make impacts in their rookie season, but Livers could be the exception to that rule. His advanced age and obvious skillset make him a player who could immediately step in and fill an important role in Detroit. He could find legitimate minutes even if the team is exceeding expectations and fighting for a playoff or play-in spot.
NBA Size and Strength
The first obvious skill that Livers brings is his size. At 6-foot-7, 230 pounds, he is a well-built forward who can probably handle banging with bigs in the post and providing resistance on the perimeter. Guys built like him are inherently versatile positionally and help bolster frontcourt rotations. The new archtype of positional versatility is dudes 6-foot-6 and taller who are built like trucks and are all core strength. Livers can guard most connecting forwards and most bench fives and he has the potential to guard some drive-based wings and forwards because of his strength.
The other big translatable skill is Livers’ shooting. Livers has a very solid shooting track record for a four-year player. From his freshman to his senior season, he shot 36.2%, 42.6%, 40.2%, and 43.1% on consistently rising volume, topping out at five attempts per game this season. He will no doubt hit spot-ups at an elite clip in the NBA. He has a good feel for simple relocations and forcing defenses to stay out of the paint for the on-ball scorers. Livers survives offensively mostly based on his ability to shoot at a solid rate while being 6-foot-7.
Livers’ immediate role is as a low-usage, 3-and-D forward who will space the floor for whatever unit he is playing with. If he is playing with Cade or Killian, he could be an interesting pick-and-pop guy by using his size as a screener. If he plays with the second unit, he can space the floor for the downhill slashers in Hamidou Diallo and Josh Jackson. Livers is the type of second-rounder with an obvious and immediate role to fill in the NBA.
A player like Livers is never going to develop into an on-ball scorer, and his range of outcomes does not really include a big usage jump. Instead, his role change that improves his stock as a player will be from 3-and-D to true connector. He will have to develop from someone who exists on offense to someone who is valuable and raises the ceiling of an offense.
Become a Connector
The first skill that could really develop for Livers is his connective passing. He has shown signs of life as a ball-mover, but developing into a true connecting passer could change what type of offensive player he is. If he could take a dribble or two off of a close-out, manipulate a help guy, and make the right pass to an open shooter, that fundamentally changes the level of player he can be. High-level connective passing is what separates a player like Nicolas Batum and a player like James Ennis III. Livers developing from an ok passer to a good passer could make him a very valuable offensive piece that could be worth a starting role on very good teams.
Diversify Shot Profile
The next skill to develop for Livers will be diversifying his shot profile. He is already effective in spot-up situations, but he has yet to really develop as a pull-up shooter, movement shooter, or even a side-step shooter. If Livers changes his shot diet, he could begin to create gravity as a shooter and really bend defenses. For Livers to get to that level as a shooter, he will need to get more flexible in his lower body and likely get a little lighter and faster. Shooting at the highest levels is so much more than static jumpers and he will need to become less static as a mover to achieve his ceiling as a shooter.
As mentioned above, Livers’ developmental path will be about morphing what type of role-player he can be and his efficacy in that role. Developing from a solid, bench 3-and-D guy to an elite connector is a much more difficult one than many realize, but Livers has a chance to do it. If he begins to develop his connective passing and shifts his shot diet to punish defenses, he could be a starting-caliber player on very high-level teams. Livers is interesting on this roster because his ideal developmental pathway is the one we expect for Saddiq Bey, but having two starting calibers connecting forwards has never been a detriment for any team. If Livers succeeds, he could create a pathway that allows Bey to experiment with more usage as a bench scorer.