Welcome to the latest installment of my 313 Thoughts, your weekly recap of all things Detroit Pistons. Each week Jack Kelly highlights all the relevant news, rumors and on-court play while embracing Detroit’s 313 identity. The formula is simple—I’ll detail; 3 Things to like, 1 Thing not to like and 3 Things to monitor.
Note: As the James Wiseman trade was still not official as of this writing, thoughts on Detroit’s newest big man will have to wait for next week, and by then we might even have seen him in action.
3 Things to Like
LIKE: The emergence of Duren’s post game
Jostling for tip-in rebounds and finishing with thunderous dunks have served a large portion of Duren’s scoring as a rookie. The 6-foot-11 teenager has given the league’s most powerful bigs fits with his burly style of play.
Through 49 games, Duren has served almost exclusively as a play finisher, scoring 340 of 433 points via put-backs, cuts (dunker-spot) and as the roll man in pick-and-roll, per Synergy Sports.
However in Detroit’s last week of play, Duren flashed a potential new scoring avenue by introducing us to his post-game:
In his brief time with the Pistons, Duren has shown glimpses of being able to score with his back to the basket, but these sightings have been somewhat of a rarity.
In his last couple of games, though, the 19-year-old was determined in his post-up approach, forcefully sealing his man in the paint, leaving his teammates no option but to feed him the ball.
His newfound approach was particularly evident in Friday night’s clash with the San Antonio Spurs—where Duren scored a career-high 30 points—with Coach Casey praising his rookie postgame:
“He [Duren] finished under the basket, his footwork was pristine, I was really happy [with] the way he played, just another area of growth for our other rookie.”
The advanced numbers still have Duren ranked as a below-average scoring option in the post. However, if you watch Detroit’s rookie big-man play, there’s a fluidity and grace he exhibits, which could lead to promising results.
LIKE: Ivey’s distribution off drives to the basket
The Jaden Ivey point guard experience has been a roller-coaster, to say the least. The 21-year-old’s erratic style of play is conducive to highlighting play material and equally as many plays that have you asking yourself, “Why, Jaden?”
As we approach the unofficial mid-point of the season (All-Star Weekend), the Pistons rookie guard is beginning to figure out how to best leverage his lighting-quick first step as a means to create scoring opportunities for his team.
From day one, Ivey entered the NBA with a top-5 ability to blow by defenders from a standstill. And in the early portion of his debut season, Ivey did as such. However, his forays to the paint didn’t always lead to optimal opportunities for his peers.
Prior to his last 10 outings, Ivey elected to pass on less than 40% (38.7) of his 11 drives per game, dishing out 1.3 assists (to 0.9 turnovers) a night off drives to the rim. In his past 10 games since assuming a larger playmaking role, Ivey’s pass percentage, drives and assists have all jumped to to 55%, 12.6 and 2.0, respectively. He’s even reduced his turnover rate to 0.7 in this span.
His improved vision when bursting towards the basket has reduced those narrow-minded, chaotic attacks, resulting in a number of plays like the below:
Coach Dwane Casey went out of his way to compliment his rookie’s improved vision in the aftermath of Detroit’s Friday night victory over the Spurs:
“The decisions he made as far as; dishing off, finding cutters and that type of things was big time.”
Develop is anything but linear with Ivey, but there’s no denying his playmaking is on an upwards trend.
LIKE: Keeping Bojan Bogdanovic
The decision to retain or trade Bojan Bogdanoivic was a hot topic of conversation leading up to the NBA’s recent trade deadline. While there were convincing arguments for either decision, keeping the 33-year-old sharp-shooter is best for this young roster. More importantly, keeping Bogdanovic aligns with the franchise’s vision of climbing the standings next season.
I wrote a piece toward the end of 2022 highlighting the Croatian’s ability to score in a variety of ways—you can read that here—but this week, I wanted to shine a light on his ability to finish in the painted area.
On the year, Bogdanovic is shooting a slightly above-average 67% at the rim, per Cleaning the Glass. Which, if we are being honest, is an impressive feat considering his age and athletic profile. For what he lacks in vertical prowess, Bogdanovic makes up for with a combination of strength and feathery touch—a paring which allows for many tough finishes in traffic:
In the above instance, Bogdanovic is able to blow by Raptors center Jakob Poeltl before being met by 6-foot-9 Precious Achiuwa at the rim. Bogdanovic utilizes his strength to absorb the contest and, with the assistance of his 6-feet-11 wingspan, is able to softly lay the ball in.
1 Thing to Dislike
DISLIKE: Inefficient Stew
Since Jan. 1, Isaiah Stewart is shooting 51% at the rim and 15% from three-point range, per Cleaning the Glass. The player affectionally known as ‘Beef Stew’ has turned to ‘Off Stew’ with the aforementioned percentages placing him in the lowly 5th percentile, or worse, in the respective categories.
After a a blistering start to the season from distance, his downturn in shooting efficiency from beyond the arc has been uninspiring to say the least. Perhaps a nagging shoulder injury has a role to play in his struggles, but in 32 games prior to the New Year, he was shooting 36.6% on decent volume (4.2 3PA) from three. A 20% decrease feels like a little more than just a nagging injury. Encouragingly, as I’m writing this, Stewart is currently 3-4 from deep—hopefully, this is a sign of better things for Stew’s jumper.
As it pertains to his finishing around the basket, Stewart’s limited size and athleticism likely mean he will always be a below-average scorer in the paint. However, a shot I’s like to see Stewart work on this offseason is the floater from 6-to-8 feet within the basket. Below are a couple of the many instances where a floater or push shot could help Stewart finish the play with two points:
3 Things to monitor
MONITOR: Isaiah Livers increased role
A silver lining of the Pistons’ trade with the Golden State Warriors—which saw Saddiq Bey shipped out for James Wiseman in a four-team trade—was Isaiah Livers receiving a bump in minutes at the wing position.
In his first outing with Bey out of the line-up on Friday night, Livers provided a huge boost off the bench, registering an 11-point and 10-rebound double-double in 40 minutes of action. A performance that included a match-saving steal, which earned Detroit an additional possession that eventually led to game-tying free throws.
But while the on-ball defense is much-needed, it’s Livers’ communication and timely rotations that have assisted Detroit’s defense the most. Below illustrates an excellent example of the value Livers brings within the confines of team defense:
In only a single possession, Livers is able to affect multiple actions within the Raptors’ offense with astute rotations and brilliant on-ball defense. It’s possessions like these that have resulted in Livers having a plus/minus of +16 in each of his past two games, even while averaging only 6.5 points on 30% shooting from deep.
MONITOR: Duren’s positional rebounding
It feels ‘nit-picky’ to be citing a hole in this year’s Rookie Class leading rebounder, but in games against the Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers, the technical aspect of Jalen Duren’s rebounding were exposed.
Each team’s starting center was able to haul in double-digit rebounds, with Boston’s Robert Williams III collecting 15 rebounds (6 offensive) and Jarret Allen finishing with 16 boards (9 offensive).
While Duren can get by with his physical gifts, he will need to improve on his boxing-out and overall awareness in the future to avoid allowing opponents crucial second-chance points like the below:
MONITOR: Paris stole Killian Hayes powers?
If you’ve made it this far in the piece, I thank you. Considering you are approx. 1400 words into the article, I’ll keep things short.
After starting the season tremendously poorly from a scoring perspective, Killian Hayes was able to turn his fortunes on the back of a pretty pull-up jumper and ever-improving three-point shot. But since returning home to Paris in mid-January, Hayes can’t buy a bucket. The once steady pull-up jumper has deserted him, and the third-year guard is averaging 8 points on sub-30% shooting from the field in the 9 games since playing in front of his home crowd.
He’s still playing solid defense and dishing to teammates with regularity, but without any scoring efficiency, Hayes’ scoring limitations are detrimental to Detroits offense.
Needless to say, The All-Star break can’t come soon enough for Killian.