Detroit Pistons rookies Jaden Ivey, Jalen Duren best-case comparisons: A DPOY and an MVP

Detroit Free Press

Where do the Detroit Pistons‘ two rookies rank among their 2022 NBA draft class, and what might they become?

ESPN’s respected draft expert, Jonathan Givony, set out to answer both questions Friday with his second NBA Rookie Power Rankings as the league hits the All-Star break.

Both Jaden Ivey and Jalen Duren made Givony’s top 10 on a Pistons team that’s 15-44 — the NBA’s third-worst record.

Givony, who last ranked the top 10 rookies in early December, added a twist here by giving best-case All-Star comparisons for each player.

Criteria was based on success this season, rather than future potential, and Givony was sure to state his list is “not a re-draft.” Instead, this examines which rookies have been most valuable to their teams through two-thirds of the season.

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Jalen Duren

Pistons general manager Troy Weaver traded for the 13th pick to select Duren, the youngest player in the NBA, and the former Memphis standout has been a revelation.

Duren, who turned 19 in November, is ranked No. 8 by Givony, exactly where he was in Dec. 5. Duren joined the starting lineup Dec. 9, making 26 starts in 27 appearances, and averaging 10.5 points on 67.8% shooting, with 10.4 rebounds, 1.5 assists and a block over 28.2 minutes.

Givony’s “best-case All-Star comp” for Duren is Dwight Howard.

Givony’s breakdown: “Duren entered the Pistons’ starting lineup in early December and has responded with impressive productivity, emerging as one of the NBA’s best rebounders and finishers while making strides on the defensive end.

“Considering he’s … the same age or younger than most 2023 draft prospects, there are quite a few reasons to be bullish on Duren’s future, making it all the more surprising he fell to No. 13 last June.”

Givony does not offer an explanation for his Howard comparison, but the physical resemblance at a young age is similar. Howard was the No. 1 overall pick out of high school in 2004, with a chiseled, powerful and athletic build at 6 feet 10, 240 pounds. He was a dynamite rim-runner and pick-and-roll screener, and won three consecutive Defensive Player of the Year awards (2009-11; age 23-25 seasons) in an ahead-of-its-time four-out system under head coach Stan Van Gundy. Howard’s offensive repertoire never reached sustainable efficiency, but he led the Magic to the 2009 Finals and made eight straight All-Star appearances.

Duren is all muscle at 6-10, 250, and has a similar role as a vertical threat and rim protector, valued skills despite a game that has changed dramatically since Howard’s prime more than a decade ago. You can see the vision for Duren, who may have a better shooting touch than Howard did at this age, but it would stun if he became the best player — like Howard was — on a Finals contender, in a game weighted heavily toward perimeter players.

Duren for the season is averaging 8.6 points, 8.7 rebounds and 0.9 blocks over 25.2 minutes per game in 51 appearances.

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Jaden Ivey

Ivey comes in at No. 4 in Givony’s rankings, down one spot from the first iteration.

“Ivey drops flashes of All-Star potential nightly and Detroit fans have plenty to be excited about regarding (his) long-term outlook,” Givony writes.

Ivey is having a solid rookie season overall, especially on the offensive end.

His defense has been a big disappointment and part of a unit as a whole that ranks 29th in the NBA — that’s despite Ivey’s stated focus on defense after he was drafted.

Givony’s best-case All-Star comp for Ivey is a polarizing player: former league MVP Russell Westbrook.

Givony writes: “Ivey is putting up big per-game numbers on mediocre efficiency but is receiving valuable reps as Detroit’s primary ball handler and facilitator.

“Ivey’s ability to change gears and get into the teeth of any defense he faces gives him difference-making potential as his decision-making and finishing ability continue to sharpen. He already has shown growth with his live-dribble passing and pull-up jumper, but he still has plenty of room to improve defensively, where his intensity level and awareness leave much to be desired on a consistent basis.”

Ivey, who turned 21 Monday, immediately claimed a starting backcourt spot (54 starts in 55 appearances) and is collecting 15.2 points on 42% shooting, 4.6 assists and 3.9 rebounds in 30.1 minutes. His 3-point shooting, though well below the league average of 36%, has been a pleasant surprise at 33.2% on 4.2 attempts per game. He’s getting to the foul line for 4.8 attempts per game, though making only 72.5%, and shooting a below-average 46.5% on 2s.

Ivey’s struggles to score efficiently are typical for a rookie with a heavy burden. His effective field goal percentage of 47.6% is in the league’s bottom 10 (among 161 players with at least 35 appearances and 25 minutes per game). Funnily enough, Westbrook is fifth-worst at 46% and No. 1 pick Paolo Banchero is next at 45.7%.

Westbrook was, like Ivey, a top-five pick, who was also, like Ivey, seen as a combo guard after spending two seasons in college. See a trend?

At his best in the mid-2010s, Westbrook was a wrecking ball on offense, a relentless attacker despite a wonky jump shot. He’s one of the most explosive athletes the game has ever seen, and despite grave decision-making flaws, one of the best combinations of scoring, passing and rebounding from the guard position.

As Givony notes, this is valuable court time for Ivey while also allowing the Pistons to stay in position for a top pick and a 14% chance at the Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes and No. 1 pick.

Banchero, Orlando’s presumptive Rookie of the Year, is atop the list and has a best-case comp as “2014 Blake Griffin.”

Indiana’s Bennedict Mathurin is second and compared to Jaylen Brown, and Sacramento’s Keegan Murray is third and given a Danny Granger comp. Walker Kessler, the lone big ahead of Duren, is fifth (Rudy Gobert) and labeled by Givony as the biggest steal relative to draft position (No. 22 overall).

You can read Givony’s entire article (subscription required).

Catch our podcast “The Pistons Pulse” every Tuesday morning at 5 and on demand on or wherever you listen to podcasts. Our latest episode, embedded above, is a deep dive into James Wiseman and how the mental side of the game is just as big a part of his development going forward with the Pistons. See all of our podcasts and daily voice briefings at

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