Detroit Pistons’ Jaden Ivey a preseason positive despite team’s issues on offense

Detroit Free Press

Through two preseason games, the Detroit Pistons have committed 42 turnovers against 41 assists. They’ve shot a putrid 38.8% overall (including 30% from 3-point range). If you didn’t figure it out from the numbers, they’ve lost both of their exhibitions.

But the preseason is designed to work out issues. The Pistons appear to have a lot of them as the regular season opener on Oct. 19 looms, but the preseason isn’t often an accurate preview of what’s to come.

Cade Cunningham will almost certainly average more than his 8.5 points per game thus far, for example.

One player off to a good start is Jaden Ivey, the fifth overall pick. He scored a team-high 16 points on 6-for-9 shooting against the New York Knicks on Tuesday and followed that with 14 points and six assists against the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday. Opponents are already struggling with his speed. Few defenders have been able to stay in front of him, and no one else on Detroit’s roster has been as adept at collapsing defenses as he has been.

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He hasn’t been perfect. Ivey turned the ball over seven times on Friday after committing zero turnovers against the Knicks, and he also shot 2-for-12 on Friday (but went 9-for-9 at the free-throw line).

“A lot of his mistakes and turnovers are very correctable, but you can’t teach what he brings to the table,” Pistons coach Dwane Casey said during Sunday’s practice. “His speed. I don’t know of very many people in the league who can stay in front of him. That’s a weapon. But now he’s just gotta understand crowds. If there’s a crowd there, can I get through that gap. All those things are just part of being young. He’ll figure that out quick.”

Pistons toying with lineups, defensive schemes

The Pistons switched most pick-and-roll plays on defense against the Pelicans. It delivered mixed results. While New Orleans’ big man duo of Zion Williamson and Jonas Valanciunas were limited to 22 points on 7-for-15 overall shooting, point guard Jose Alvarado went off for 28 points on 12-for-18 shooting.

Casey had to deal with a short rotation; Jalen Duren was out with a sore shoulder and Marvin Bagley III, promoted to the starting lineup alongside Isaiah Stewart, fouled out a little more than four minutes into the second half. The Pistons were also without Nerlens Noel, who is still recovering from plantar fasciitis and has been limited in training camp. Having a sturdy center to protect the paint might’ve changed the result, but Casey said the Pistons will adjust their switching scheme as necessary throughout the season.

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Detroit did limit New Orleans to 24 3-point attempts, of which they made just eight.

“We understand that all season, we’re not going to have Cade switching onto (Joel) Embiid or Cade switching onto Valanciunas,” Casey said. “We have other schemes. It’s a process of building your switching to make sure you build opportunity, to switch 1-5 and then you go 1-4 and then you go 1-3 according to the game.”

The two-big lineup was eventually phased out of Friday’s game because of injuries and foul trouble, but the Pistons remain committed to it. Starting Stewart and Bagley allowed Detroit to match the Pelicans’ size. Stewart has shot the ball decently through two exhibitions, making 3 of 8 3-point attempts.

“We’re interchangeable, because we both have been shooting this summer,” Bagley said. “His shot has got a lot better, my shot has got a lot better. Being able to come out here, it’s good to play with a guy like that because no matter where we’re at on the floor, we can switch spots at any time and we know the plays at each spot.”

Injury updates

Duren’s sore shoulder isn’t serious, Casey said, but it did hold him out of Sunday’s practice. It remains to be seen if the rookie center will be healthy in time for the Pistons’ home preseason game against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Tuesday.

Hamidou Diallo has yet to make his preseason debut due to a quad injury, and also missed Sunday’s practice. Noel and Kevin Knox (right gastroc strain) have yet to fully participate in training camp but are trending in the right direction, Casey said.

Contact Omari Sankofa II at Follow him on Twitter @omarisankofa.

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