Detroit Pistons rookies Jaden Ivey, Jalen Duren shine in Summer League debuts

Detroit Free Press

LAS VEGAS — The Detroit Pistons‘ Summer League game wasn’t as exciting as some fans might’ve expected, but it was dotted with exciting moments.

Surprisingly tight officiating slowed Thursday’s game against the Portland Trail Blazers to a crawl at times. But the Pistons prevailed, thanks to strong performances from their rookie duo, Jaden Ivey and Jalen Duren, along with Isaiah Stewart.

WHAT TO WATCH THIS SUMMER: How ready are Jaden Ivey and Jalen Duren?

The Pistons defeated the Blazers, 81-78, at the Thomas & Mack Center. Ivey led the team with 20 points and six assists along with six rebounds, and Stewart finished with 13 points (3-for-4 on 3-pointers) and nine rebounds. Saben Lee also added 13 points (10-for-13 from the free-throw line) and Braxton Key had 11 points and seven rebounds. In just 12 minutes, Duren tallied nine points and a pair of blocks.

Jaden Ivey’s athleticism stands out

It took a while for Ivey to showcase the speed and leaping ability that helped him become a top-five pick. But once he found his rhythm, he didn’t slow down.

Ivey completed dunks on consecutive possessions in the third quarter, finishing a lob from Key and then a steal-and-slam in transition. About a minute later, he split two defenders with his elite first step, single-handedly creating a transition layup.

Ivey was Detroit’s best player Thursday night. His speed makes him a consistent threat to get to the rim even with a defender glued to his body. He showcased the rest of his game as well, knocking down two of five 3-point attempts and making all six of his free throws.

Duren exactly as advertised

Duren is 18 and will be the NBA’s youngest player next season. In his first summer league game, he was a man among boys.

You can learn a lot about Duren’s game just by looking at him. At 6 feet 11 and a chiseled 250 pounds, he’ll be one of the more physically-imposing players in the league from Day 1. And was certainly bigger and stronger than anyone on Portland’s roster. Duren finished three thunderous dunks in the first quarter — including an alley-oop from Ivey to get the Pistons on the board on the game’s first possession.

Duren was also active as a passer and rim protector. In the first quarter, he found Stewart open in the corner for what could’ve been a 3-pointer, but Stewart bobbled the pass, drove left and drew a foul at the rim. He also picked up a pair of blocks in the second quarter, nearly blocking the ball with his elbow during the first one, and picked up a steal and found Key in transition for a layup during the same quarter.

He didn’t play much in the second half, and it isn’t clear why. But he maximized his time on the floor.

Contact Omari Sankofa II at Follow him on Twitter @omarisankofa. The Free Press has started a new digital subscription model. Here’s how you can gain access to our most exclusive Pistons content. Read more on the Detroit Pistons and sign up for our Pistons newsletter.

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