Film Don’t Lie: Isaiah Livers is a baller

Detroit Bad Boys

I have to be straight up with everyone, Isaiah Livers has QUICKLY become one of my favorite players on this Detroit Pistons roster. While I am a fan of the NBA team in Michigan, I must admit Livers was not a player I was super familiar with during his career playing for the Michigan Wolverines. I really started seeing his name more and more during last season’s NBA mock drafts where he was a popular player going to the Pistons and Troy Weaver.

Livers ended up being selected No. 42 overall by Detroit and the career 41% college 3-point shooter was an intriguing name because of his Michigan ties AND this team’s need for floor spacing. Unfortunately, it would take quite some time before we were able to see Isaiah with meaningful minutes as he recovered from the unfortunate foot injury that prematurely ended his college career.

We are still working with an EXTREMELY small sample size with Livers, 10.7 MPG over 6 games at time of this article, but even in less than 100 minutes you can start to see the things Livers might bring to the table (and the things he might not). He has absolutely surpassed Saben Lee, Luka Garza, Jamorko Pickett, and company as the non-first-round pick I am most intrigued by and think has the best chance to carve out a role with this team. And I do want to emphasize I am just talking about carving out a second-unit role. I am by no means saying Livers is a future starter OR “core member” of the future. Let’s go to the film and see what I like so much about the 2nd round pick.

Offense

I want to first say that everything STARTS with Livers being able to consistently knock down 3s. If he does not get close to that 40% (6-of-17 for 35% with the Pistons, 33% on nine attempts per game with Motor City Cruise) we saw from him in college then his chances of staying in the league do go down BUT that is absolutely not everything he brings to the table offensively.

The most impressive and surprising part of his game, for me, is being able to be a true “connector.” The fact that he has played so few minutes with the Pistons so far this year and we have as many examples as we do of him making the smart “one more” pass or getting a hockey assist tells you how often he is looking to do it. The high basketball IQ even shows up with a very aware weak side off the ball screen.

Of course, there are always areas for improvement with a young player and there are reasons he was a 2nd round pick, just beyond the injury. We have yet to see him make shots on the move, coming off screens, or using a ball screen. I have no doubt that his gravity will give him opportunities to attack closeouts but I am still interested to see how effective he will be when he does it. I am not saying he can’t, I am not saying he won’t develop it, all I am saying is I don’t think we have seen it……yet.

Defense

I am still not quite sure what “position” Livers is on the defensive end but let’s start with an overall positive. He looks to have the makings for a very good off ball defender just based on energy, effort, basketball IQ AND communication. It is one thing for you to know where to be and what to do but if you are able to then communicate that EFFECTIVELY to your teammates that brings great value to the overall defense. I do wonder a little about how well he can navigate screens but as much as the Pistons switch, that may not be a big factor.

Where it gets to be a little bit of a mixed bag on the defensive end is on the ball. Again, you will not question Livers’ effort on the ball and he has some really good reps. He also has some reps where he is not able to hold up quite as well, albeit against some very, very good NBA scorers.

I am extremely encouraged by what we have seen from Isaiah Livers in his limited minutes thus far and can honestly say I am excited to see how he looks the rest of the season as I am assuming he will continue to get significant playing time. Really want to keep a particular eye on if the shooting becomes productive with this consistent minutes, does he continue to show that “connector” piece offensively, and how the defense looks on and off the ball.

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