Detroit Pistons Writer
Earlier this week, I wrote an article on one area of improvement for each of the Detroit Pistons’ projected young starters. Cade Cunningham, Jaden Ivey, Saddiq Bey and Isaiah Stewart are just four of Detroit’s 10 players 24 years of age or younger.
The six remaining young players compete amongst themselves and Detroit’s veteran players for a spot in the bench rotation. Training camp and preseason will be the deciding factor in which guys crack the rotation and which guys find themselves riding the bench.
The young starters got their turn, now it is time for the bench guys. Here is one area of improvement for six Pistons aged 24 or younger coming off the bench.
Kevin Knox: Scoring efficiency
Let us get Kevin Knox out of the way first. The 23-year-old is unlikely to crack the Pistons’ rotation this season without multiple injuries to other players pushing him into the lineup.
Knox has never shot above 40 percent from the floor in a single season of his career. His minutes per game dropped significantly in each season of his four-year career.
The key to Knox resurrecting his career is finding a more consistent shot. If he can do that, he could latch on as a journeyman wing, but if he is unable to develop into a more efficient scorer, he could find himself out of the league soon.
Killian Hayes: Three-point shooting
Killian Hayes established himself as one of the Pistons’ best defenders and playmakers during his first two seasons in the NBA. Hayes reads the court better than any player on Detroit’s roster. He can make pinpoint, threat-the-needle passes with ease. Defensively, he uses his size and length to disrupt passing lanes and cut off drive attempts. He is not a guy opposing players want to face as an on-ball defender.
While Hayes excels as a passer and defender, he has shown plenty of struggles creating for himself and finding a consistent jump shot.
This past season, Hayes’ offensive struggles led to Cory Joseph replacing him in the starting lineup. Hayes was shy around the rim, and his three-point shot was abysmal. After moving to the bench, Hayes improved his aggression around the rim. The point guard went from shooting 32 percent off drive attempts as a starter to shooting 51.2 percent off drive attempts coming off the bench.
Hayes’ three-point shot did not improve like his finishing around the rim did. The 21-year-old finished the season shooting 26.3 percent from beyond the arc on 2.5 attempts per game. Entering the 2022-23 season, improving his shot from three-point range has to be a top priority for Hayes.
By all accounts, Hayes is working on improving his jumper, he reportedly tweaked his jump shot in the offseason. If he can improve to at least a respectable shooter, Detroit’s floor spacing would significantly improve.
Marvin Bagley III: floor spacing
This came down to floor spacing and defense for Marvin Bagley III. The Duke product is not particularly good in either area thus far in his career.
Bagley has never posted a positive defensive box plus/minus in any of his four NBA seasons, and he has a poor career defensive rating of 113. However, at this point, Bagley is not here to be a lockdown defender for Detroit. The Pistons re-signed Bagley this offseason to go out and get buckets for them. Improving his outside shot is the next step in Bagley’s evolution as an offensive player.
The 23-year-old has flashed a decent three-point shot in the past. In the 2020-21 season, Bagley shot 34.3 percent from beyond the arc on 2.5 attempts per game. This past season, he regressed to 23.7 percent.
If Bagley can bring his three-point shot back up to his 2020-21 standard, opposing defenses would have to respect him from beyond the arc. This improvement would not only unlock Bagley’s offensive game, but it would also open up the floor for his teammates as well.
Isaiah Livers: Self-creation
Isaiah Livers is the perfect three-and-D wing. In his rookie season, the 24-year-old shot 42.2 percent from beyond the arc, most of which came off catch-and-shoot attempts. Livers consistently found good positioning along the perimeter. He is a willing passer and often makes the extra pass to find an open shot. Defensively, Livers is an impact player. He communicates well, he sticks to his man and he contests shots.
If Livers did not improve in any other area of his game, he could still have a long career in the NBA. His defense and floor spacing are that valuable. However, Livers is not the best at creating for himself. He is not the most athletic player on the court. He does not have the burst to explode past defenders, and he does not possess the dribble moves to get by either.
Creating for himself is the biggest flaw in Livers’ game. This season, developing even just a little bit in this area could set him on a path to a larger role than simply a three-and-D wing.
Jalen Duren: Post game
Jalen Duren projects to be a solid pick-and-roll center with high-end defensive potential in his rookie season. At 6-10 and 250 pounds, he already has the size for a modern big despite being just 18 years of age. The Memphis product might have to battle his way into the rotation during the regular season, but he should not find himself outsized early on in his career.
Duren showed some post moves during his time in Summer League, but his post-game is far from developed. Duren did not post up a lot during his time in college. In a limited sample size, he displayed promising potential, but he was not regularly given the opportunity to work in the post.
Developing his post-game and touch around the rim are keys to Duren pushing for a spot in Detroit’s starting lineup down the line. During the regular season, those opportunities to develop in the post may not come for Duren. The big man is likely to be heavily utilized as a pick-and-roll screener.
Duren is a raw prospect with great size. It might take him a few years to develop a more well-rounded offensive game, but he could be a dangerous big man both offensively and defensively as he gains more experience in the league.
Hamidou Diallo: Defense
Hamidou Diallo has an uphill battle to crack Detroit’s rotation this season. Both Livers and Alec Burks are penciled in ahead of him in the wing spots on the bench unit.
Three-point shooting sticks out like a sore thumb as a major area of improvement for Diallo. The 24-year-old shot 24.7 percent from three-point range last season. However, Detroit is not looking for Diallo to make an impact as a shooter. His athleticism and presence as a cutter and attacking the rim is where Diallo makes his mark on offense.
Defensively, Diallo has the potential to be a high-end player. He has the size and length to guard multiple positions. He was one of four Pistons who posted a positive defensive box plus/minus (minimum 10 games).
Expanding his defensive game is going to be key to Diallo earning minutes with the Pistons. Both Burks and Livers are stout defensive players. Diallo needs to reach close to their level in order to get the nod over either of them in rotational minutes.
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