Over the past couple of weeks, the Pistons have had their share of defensive woes. There was the tough performance at home where they gave up 49 points in the first quarter to the Bucks. And then there was the loss to the Rockets who were without their three best players. And in this contest, Houston notched 16 offensive rebounds and scored 70 points in the paint. All season long, Detroit has had up and down nights on both ends of the court. But if there has been a common struggle night in and night out, it has been stopping the bleeding on the defensive end. The Pistons, a franchise built on defense and grit, are on pace to allow the second most points per game in franchise history.
With the Pistons missing Marvin Bagley and Cade Cunningham, they are inherently short handed, and there needs to be improvements to the roster in the offseason. However, that doesn’t mean they can’t immediately improve on the defensive end. In fact, there’s one player on this team that could change the entire dynamic on the defensive end. And that player, without question, is 19 year old center Jalen Duren. In his short time in the league, Duren has shown the potential to be elite on the glass. And on certain nights, he’s shown he can be an elite defensive anchor too.
Pistons have a bright future in Jalen Duren
Jalen Duren is the youngest player in the NBA, let alone the youngest starter. And having to guard centers like Embiid and Jokic is no small task. However, in a small sample size, Duren has shown potential to be an elite defensive big. According to bball index, Jalen Duren is in the 98th percentile in post defense. And in addition, Duren has contested 41 percent of shots at the rim, which is in the 92nd percentile. This means Jalen Duren is a high motor center who is already getting active and being present in the paint. And when he is active, the Pistons are at their best. Arguably the performance that showed his potential on full display was his clinic in Charlotte on the 14the of December.
The Pistons center (who is only 19) went for 7 points shooting 2-8 that night on the offensive end. However, Duren also had 3 blocks, 19 rebounds (6 of them on the offensive end). Offensive rebounding might not seem relevant in this conversation, but if you think about it, offensive rebounding is a form of defense. If you actually think about it, it’s the first line of defense. His ability to both create second chances and his effort at the rim are both solid building blocks in the foundation of his game.
Jalen Duren still has lots of room to grow
Despite all of the promise Jalen Duren has shown, he’s also had moments that remind you of his youth. Duren currently averages 1.3 fouls per 75 possessions, and that’s in the 20th percentile in the NBA. Meaning? He makes mistakes, he bites on fakes, he can draw fouls in untimely situations. There also can be mental lapses of judgement just like any player. And Duren has had his fair share of growing pains in the league as well. Despite that, however, he still is making strides and growing rapidly.
One area he can grow in that would make a massive difference is in blocks. Duren averages less than a block a game presently, and at times, the Pistons have allowed 60+ points in a game in the paint. And because of it, Jalen Duren is not a deterrent at the rim. In fact, because he’s young, teams look to drive and go right at him. BBall Index has Duren’s rim deterrence in the 32nd percentile, showing just that. However, Duren is already growing in this department. Since coming back in the lineup from his ankle injury, Duren is averaging almost two blocks a game. And if he can keep that up with improved defensive play as a whole from the team, that will make a big difference.
Another area that Jalen Duren can grow in as well is communication. This is also not an area that’s specific to Duren, as it is a team wide issue. And also is a common issue with young players as well. But the best defensive anchors in the league are also the best communicators. Draymond Green is renowned for his defensive ability, and part of his success is he is always talking on the court. Rudy Gobert, another multi time defensive player of the year, is a back line communicator pointing out screens and coordinating switches. And the going to work Pistons, one of the greatest teams in the history of the league, had their anchor in Ben Wallace. Every dominant Pistons team has had a dominant back line of bigs. And at this current rate, Jalen Duren is more than capable of being that next big in line.
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