If the Detroit Pistons are targeting Jaden Ivey in Thursday’s NBA Draft, they might have been happy to hear that other teams haven’t done as much homework as they have.
Ivey told reporters Monday the Pistons are just one of two teams to hold a private workout for the draft-eligible Purdue guard, along with the Orlando Magic.
Orlando has the No. 1 pick in this year’s draft. If the Magic were to select Ivey and divert from one of the presumed top-three selections (Jabari Smith, Chet Holmgren, Paolo Banchero), it would send the whole draft completely off-kilter.
But if everything goes according to plan and the Sacramento Kings pass on Ivey with the fourth pick to make him available for the Pistons at No. 5, well, it seems like a pairing that he’d be comfortable with.
“I watched a lot of Detroit,” Ivey said, while also naming Sacramento, the Oklahoma City Thunder (No. 2) and the New York Knicks (No. 11) as other lottery teams he’s paid a lot of attention to in the last year.
Ivey, 20, said that what’s attractive to him about the Pistons is, “The pieces that they have, young talent.”
That notably includes last year’s No. 1 overall pick, Cade Cunningham. Ivey said his own versatility would make him a perfect pair alongside Cunningham, a ball-dominant point guard who finished third in last season’s Rookie of the Year voting and made First-team All-Rookie.
“Part of my game that a lot of people don’t see is that I can play off the ball, too. I feel like I can play off the ball or on the ball, and I feel like I could complement Cade a little bit, just with his ability to score the ball,” Ivey said.
“But like, I can play off the ball and just read how the offense is going. Obviously, I can be a lead guard, but I’m a baller. So, I feel like if you need me on the ball or you need me off the ball, whatever it is to help the team win, I can do.”
Ivey, a 6-foot-4, 200-pound guard who said his game draws inspiration from Ja Morant and Russell Westbrook, comes from an athletic family with ties to the Motor City.
His father, Javin Hunter, attended Detroit Country Day School and won three state titles on the basketball team alongside future NBA champion Shane Battier before going on to play at Notre Dame and becoming an NFL Draft pick in 2002. His mother, Niele, had a brief stint with the WNBA’s Detroit Shock in 2005 and was hired as the head coach of Notre Dame’s women’s team after spending time with the Memphis Grizzlies as an assistant.
Ivey credited his mom with his “sense of knowledge for the game.”
“Growing up, she just helped with a lot of basketball things: IQ, just the little fundamentals of the game that helped me become the player I am today. She still helps me today on certain stuff that she sees, just watching the games. She’s always got that sense of basketball love for the game and she helps me a lot.”
Ivey took a big step in his sophomore season at Purdue after being named Big Ten All-Freshman in his first year. In 2021-22, he averaged 17.3 points, 4.9 rebounds and 3.1 assists and was named a consensus All-American and All-Big Ten. In postseason play, he was even better, averaging 18/5.7/3.2.
Still, Ivey said he didn’t get the chance to showcase everything that he can do as a player during that time at Purdue. This summer, he’s been working on parts of his game that “can help me showcase a lot on the NBA level,” he said.
“I’m doing work on my mid-range, my floaters, things that I really couldn’t show on the college stage, so I think I’m ready for all types of challenges that are going to come my way in the NBA.”
Whether that next step comes with the Pistons will be decided Thursday night. As to whether the Kings could disrupt a potential plan for Detroit to grab him at No. 5, Ivey didn’t make it sound like heading to Sacramento was exactly a match made in heaven.
Ivey said that there has been no contact between him and the Kings, but if he got drafted there, “it wouldn’t be the worst option.”
Nolan Bianchi is a freelance writer.