The NBA Draft Lottery did not pan out the way Detroit Pistons fans had hoped. The Pistons entered the lottery tied for the best odds to land the number one pick. They held a 52 percent chance of remaining in the top four picks as well. However, neither outcome came to fruition.
Detroit fell two spots in the lottery, landing the fifth overall pick. That drop takes them out of contention for one of the three big men who headline the draft class. Barring some unforeseen drop, Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren, Auburn’s Jabari Smith and Duke’s Paolo Banchero will be off the board by the time the Pistons pick at five.
There is still talent outside of the top three in this year’s draft class. While Detroit is not happy they fell out of the top three, there is still plenty of opportunity to be had with the fifth pick.
Purdue guard Jaden Ivey was one of the most electrifying players in college basketball this past season. The All-Big 10 selection averaged 17.3 points, 4.9 rebounds and 3.1 assists per contest.
The sophomore could easily be gone before the Pistons draft. The Sacramento Kings could nab the star guard with the fourth pick. That might be a weird fit in the Kings lineup; De’Aaron Fox and Davion Mitchell already fill Sacramento’s backcourt. Keegan Murray, AJ Griffin or Shaedon Sharpe are all better fits. Although, making selections with awkward fits is exactly what the King’s front office is known to do.
If Ivey is available when the Pistons draft at five, he should be a no-brainer selection for GM Troy Weaver and the Pistons’ front office.
Jaden Ivey is the best player available outside the top three
Ivey is the most explosive prospect in this draft class. The 20-year-old has a quick first step and consistently beats defenders with speed. His handle, while it can improve, is tight enough to thread his way through traffic and into the paint. He can attack the rim with power, with his fair share of posterizing dunks. He also has the ability to finish with finesse, getting the ball to drop from different angles.
With the ball in his hands, Ivey is a special player. The Purdue product offers the quick-twitch athleticism sorely missing in Detroit’s starting lineup. None of the Pistons’ starters jump off the page as speedy or springy athletes. Ivey’s elite-level burst would be a great injection of energy into Detroit’s starting lineup.
Ivey showed drastic improvement as a shooter in college. In his freshman year, Ivey shot 25.8 percent from beyond the arc. He made an emphasis on improving his shot, and in his sophomore season, the 20-year-old shot 35.8 percent on five three-point attempts per game. While he still struggles with consistency at times, Ivey possesses sound mechanics and should continue to improve as a shooter at the NBA level.
In transition, Ivey is a dangerous player. The guard was consistently a threat to collect a rebound and take the ball coast-to-coast for a transition bucket. Ivey combines his speed with shifty ball-handling to weave his way to the basket before the defense can get set. Ivey has the ability to push the pace and get early buckets, something the Pistons did not do well last season.
Jaden Ivey has the tools to be a great all-around player
Ivey is not a perfect prospect. The 20-year-old is not the most effective off-ball scorer. He has a lot of room to grow as a playmaker, and he needs to work on his defensive consistency. While these are major areas of improvement, Ivey has all of the tools and has flashed the potential to improve at the next level.
Purdue did not utilize Ivey as an off-ball option very much. When he was on the court, Ivey was used as the primary ball-handler for the majority of the team’s possessions. He shot 34.8 on catch-and-shoot three-pointers. While not nearly as high as the best shooters in this class, he has shown he can sink spot-up shots at ok efficiency.
It was not consistent, but Ivey flashed some solid off-ball movement and footwork. With a new role at the NBA level, coaches should be able to unlock those abilities to make him more of a threat off screens and cuts to the rim.
As a playmaker, Ivey has moments of brilliance. He also has moments that make you scratch your head. He made a lot of flashy passes out of drives at Purdue. Ivey often forced the defense to collapse as he drove to the basket and then found a teammate with an open look. The sophomore had a knack for connecting on difficult kick-outs and dump-offs.
While he made some spectacular passes to set up teammates, Ivey had his fair share of misreads. At times, he will attempt a kick-out pass with no one in the vicinity and send the ball out of bounds instead. At other times, Ivey simply made poor reads that led to turnovers, with an average of 2.6 per game this season.
Ivey is an ok playmaker. He is at his best passing out of drives. He needs to work on consistently making the right read. At the NBA level, Ivey will not be asked to be a primary playmaker for others. However, he has the ability to develop into a much more consistent passer, and he will make some flashy passes to set up his teammates.
Ohio State Buckeyes forward Seth Towns (31) dribbles past Purdue Boilermakers guard Jaden Ivey (23) during the second half of the men’s basketball game at Value City Arena in Columbus on Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021. Purdue won 67-65. Ohio State Vs Purdue Men S Basketball (credit: Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK)
Ivey’s biggest struggles on the defensive end come with engagement. All of the pieces to be a plus defender are already in Ivey’s game. He has decent size at 6-4, 200 pounds. He has the lateral quickness to stay in front of guards and wings on drive attempts. His 6-9 wingspan gives him the length to contest shots and disrupts passing lanes. Ivey also has a knack for collecting defensive rebounds.
The 20-year-old simply did not have the focus to be locked in defensively at Purdue. He often got caught ball watching as an off-ball defender. He sagged off his man on the perimeter, which left them with open shots off the catch.
When Ivey was locked in on the defensive end, he made a lot of plays. In his best moments, Ivey played tight off-ball defense, often denying his man the ball and fighting through screens to stick with him. He would play a passing lane and swipe the ball and take it to the rim for an easy transition finish. He has good footwork, which gives him good timing on block attempts when opposing guards attack the paint.
The right coaching staff and the right culture can unlock Ivey on the defensive end of the court. He probably will never become an elite perimeter defender, but he should at the very least develop into an above-average defender.
A backcourt pairing of Jaden Ivey and Cade Cunningham will work
The Pistons need to upgrade their backcourt partner for franchise guard Cade Cunningham. Cory Joseph was meh, and Killian Hayes had his moments but is best suited off the bench. Weaver has made it clear he wants a backcourt partner who can share some of the ball-handling load with Cunningham. There are some options available in free agency, but Ivey is by far the best option in the draft, and has more upside than the available free agents.
There are questions about a potential pairing of Cunningham and Ivey. Both guards are at their best with the ball in their hands. Ivey’s development as an off-ball player is key to a potential pairing with Cunningham.
Ivey has the tools to adapt to a slightly different role than he played at Purdue. This Pistons’ coaching staff has shown an ability to get the most of their talented prospects and get them to buy into their roles.
There are bound to be some growing pains, but a backcourt duo of Cunningham and Ivey could one day be one of the most dynamic in the NBA. Ivey’s pace pushing burst and explosive driving would compliment Cunningham’s playmaking and surgical scoring ability.
If Jaden Ivey is in the board when the Pistons draft at the fifth pick, Weaver and the front office should not hesitate to select him. Of course, there is some risk, but with a player of Ivey’s caliber, why not take a swing on a potential homerun?
(Featured Image Credit: Jenna Watson/IndyStar / USA TODAY NETWORK)