The Las Vegas Summer League is in the books for the Detroit Pistons.
The team opened up Summer League play with a 2-0 record, defeating the Portland Trail Blazers in the opener and Washington Wizards in game two. Detroit dropped back-to-back games against the Indiana Pacers and Cleveland Cavaliers. The Pistons finished off Summer League action with a victory over the Orlando Magic.
A 3-2 record after a 2-0 start is far from a good finish. However, none of the players on an NBA contract played after the first two games. As a result, the on-court product dipped in quality.
Ultimately, the outcomes of five Summer League games are inconsequential to the upcoming season. What is important is the individual performance and development of the young players. The Pistons had six players on NBA contracts competing in Summer League, and all six had ample opportunity to showcase their skills and development.
Some performances were good, some were poor and others were meh. Here are six takeaways from the Pistons Summer League.
Jaden Ivey is as electrifying as advertised
When the Pistons selected Jaden Ivey with the fifth pick in the 2022 NBA Draft, the team hoped they had acquired a long-term backcourt partner for star point guard Cade Cunningham. The Purdue product is the most electrifying player from the 2022 draft class.
Ivey displayed his athleticism in Summer League. The 23-year-old scored 20 points in Detroit’s opening matchup with Portland. He pushed the pace in transition and threaded his way through traffic to finish around the rim. At times, he tried to move too fast, but as the game went along, he found his rhythm. He shot two-for-five from beyond the arc as well.
On top of his athletic finishing, Ivey displayed good playmaking instincts. He finished the game with six assists. He tried to be a little too fancy with some of his passes which led to turnovers, totaling five. However, he made good reads throughout the game.
Ivey was building off his solid play against Washington. He scored 11 points while shooting 100 percent from the floor, including a three-pointer and six free throws. However, Ivey’s game was cut short when he sustained an injury after just five minutes of play.
It was an incredibly small sample size, but Ivey showcased high-end athleticism and signs of development as a playmaker and as a three-point shooter. There is still plenty of room to grow, but Ivey has proven he will be an exciting player to pair with Cunningham.
Jalen Duren’s upside was on full display
Memphis big man Jalen Duren is the youngest player from the 2022 draft class. The Pistons acquired the 18-year-old in a draft night trade with the New York Knicks. Duren brings a combination of size and athleticism that will be incredibly valuable to Detroit’s roster in the coming years.
Duren instantly showcased his athleticism with an explosive dunk off a lob from Ivey to open up scoring against the Trail Blazers. The center continued to finish around the rim in Summer League, with nine points against Portland and 13 against the Wizards.
The Memphis product displayed great defensive play as well. He tallied two blocks in both games. While Duren made great plays on defense, he struggled with foul trouble, committing three fouls against Portland and five against Washington.
Duren showed a lot of good during Summer League, but his areas in need of improvement were on display as well. While the big man proved himself to be a serious lob threat in the paint, his post-game was lacking. He will need to add some post moves into his arsenal as he develops over the coming years.
The Pistons currently have a log jam at the center position, so it will be interesting to see how Duren garners minutes this upcoming season. If he does not assert himself as the backup center, he might benefit from some time in the G-League.
Isaiah Stewart is going to let the threes fly next season
Isaiah Stewart is a bit too good to have been playing in Summer League. The big man has established himself as a great defensive anchor. Whether that is as a long-term starter or coming off the bench, only time will tell. But in Summer League, Stewart was clearly a step ahead of everyone else on the court.
The main reason Stewart played in Summer League was to give him minutes at power forward. Stewart had never played the four before in his basketball career. With the log jam at the center position, one of Detroit’s big men is going to need to offer some positional versatility. With his defensive versatility and floor spacing potential, Stewart was an obvious choice to try out at power forward.
A point of emphasis for Stewart this offseason was adding a consistent three-point shot into his game. At the end of this past season, the Pistons utilized Stewart as a floor spacer more often than they had before. He shot 52.4 percent from three-point range on 1.6 attempts in the final 13 games of the season.
In Summer League, Stewart continued to build off his late-season shooting performance. The 21-year-old shot three-for-four from three against the Trail Blazers. He followed that up by shooting two-for-five from beyond the arc against the Wizards. Whether Stewart winds up playing power forward or center, he has proven he can be a reliable three-point shooter next season.
Isaiah Livers is going to be a key contributor next season
Of all of Detroit’s core players who played in Summer League, Isaiah Livers may have impressed the most. Injuries limited the 23-year-old to just 19 games this past season. However, Livers displayed three-and-D potential in those games. During Summer League action, Livers proved he was ready to step up for the Pistons this upcoming season.
Livers shot five-for-13 from beyond the arc in two Summer League games. He moved well off-ball and consistently found good positioning along the perimeter. When he did not have an open look at the basket, Livers kept the ball moving.
Defensively, Livers played with high intensity. Against the Trail Blazers, Livers finished with one steal and two blocks. He flew across the court on multiple occasions to make block attempts around the rim.
After trading Jerami Grant to Portland, the Pistons have a hole at power forward in their starting lineup. There is no clear replacement for Grant, but with his superb Summer League play, Livers may be positioning himself to fill the void at power forward.
Summer League was more of the same for Killian Hayes
Over the course of his two-year career, Killian Hayes has established himself as a great playmaker and defensive player. During Summer League play, it was no different for the point guard.
Hayes consistently made thread-the-needle passes. He finished his lone Summer League game with four assists. Defensively, he was in his comfort zone, tallying a steal.
The biggest area of concern for Hayes throughout his career has been scoring. In Summer League, Hayes did little to showcase any improvement in that area. He attempted just four shots from the field against Portland. He shot two-for-four including one-for-three from beyond the arc.
As far as Hayes’ shooting performances go, his game against Portland was one of his better ones. However, in Summer League, you would hope Hayes would have more aggression with attacking the basket or creating his own shot. That simply was not the case. The 20-year-old focused on playing within his comfort zone instead of developing the weaker areas of his game.
Saben Lee may be the odd man out on Detroit’s roster
Saben Lee did not stand out in Summer League. He scored 13 points against the Trail Blazers and 11 against the Wizards. However, he did not show much development as an outside shooter, going two-for-six in two games. He dished out seven total assists, but he was a ball stopper at times. The ball often stuck to Lee’s hands, and Detroit’s offense became stagnant as a result.
Just like with the center position, the Pistons have a log jam at point guard. With excessive depth at point guard and center, the team lacks depth at the wing positions. Detroit could look to add a wing player before the start of the season, but the team would have to cut someone in order to do it. Saben Lee could end up as the odd man out if Detroit needs to open up a roster spot.
(Featured Image Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports)
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