Jaden Ivey Is A Star In The Making

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Jaden Ivey Is A Star In The Making

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Jaden Ivey Is A Star In The Making

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With the fifth overall pick in the 2022 NBA draft, the Detroit Pistons selected Jaden Ivey, an outrageously explosive guard who spent two seasons with the Purdue Boilermakers before entering his name into the draft. Ivey was a favorite amongst NBA front offices and draft twitter scouts and was oozing with star potential in a class that lacked star certainty. Ivey’s ridiculous athleticism and speed combined with his improved jump shot made him the perfect creator bet as someone who could use his overwhelming speed and burst to accelerate into the paint and keep defenses honest with a reliable shot behind the arc.

So far through around one-fourth of the NBA season, we’ve seen mixed results in terms of consistency of production but the flashes have been unbelievably impressive. Ivey’s offensive identity is centered around that game-changing athleticism that made him so highly touted. His scoring primarily revolves around his ability to get paint touches at will, blowing by defenses and shredding point of attack defenders to penetrate and get two feet in the paint seemingly anytime he wants:

Ivey is likely going to be one of the NBA’s premier driving threats going forward. In his last season with the Boilermakers, it was clear that his natural talent and ability was good enough for him to dominate college basketball in stretches and completely take over games. He learned to play with tempo and pace as the season went on, but being as fast and quick as he was at his size made him nearly unguardable in the Big 10. 

Despite a clogged lane and lackluster spacing, Ivey routinely darted to the rim and was able to dazzle with ridiculous finishes and highlight reel dunks. He also drew fouls at a high rate and with the lane being as crowded as it was, he developed into a solid interior passer who could find his bigs down low.

However, one thing Ivey needed to improve on was his process and learning to play with tempo. He’s blisteringly fast but he needed to learn how to not only leverage his speed in certain spots, but to balance it with change of pace and direction. A commonality between many athletic young guards is struggling with switching gears and learning to decelerate and make themselves unpredictable. This was something that he struggled with early on in his sophomore season at Purdue but gradually improved at as the season progressed.

Now, we’re seeing Ivey showcase his improvements consistently. He’s become extremely crafty and patient as a PNR operator and routinely shows how methodical his process is. He’s able to jail the trailing defender consistently and leverage his scoring gravity by either snaking the screen or using the threat of his shot to force defenders to get over screens. He’s patient and has no problem waiting for the retreating big to make a decision on whether to guard Ivey on his path to the rim or cover the rolling big. Often times, Ivey’s able to make defenders pay regardless of what decision they make:

Ivey’s speed and improving craft as a PNR initiator makes him a nightmare to guard. He already feasts in transition with his open-court athleticism but he’s now a serious threat in the half court. He’s definitely still rough around the edge with a lot of polishing needed but the outline for his success is there. He needs to leverage his speed and athleticism to center an offensive game around his ability to get to the rim or at least always be a threat to get to the rim. Ivey is far from a one-trick pony and is able to provide offensive impact in a multitude of ways. 

Ivey is not a tremendous passer but is a very solid one who’s developed a variety of taught reads. He loves to sprint to the baseline out of the PNR and whip a pass to a shooter on the perimeter or a cutter seeking a lane to the rim to create open shots for his teammates:

He’s also developed terrific chemistry with the other Detroit lottery pick, Jalen Duren. Duren is also an uber-athlete who’s strong and physical as a screener with unteachable vertical gifts. These two have been a synergistic duo in the PNR. Ivey is able to use his scoring threat to feed dump-off passes to Duren down low or throw lob passes over the top. His decision-making can be pretty poor at times and his ball placement on kickout passes can be dicey, but Ivey is ahead of schedule in terms of passing and being a lead playmaker throughout the first few games of his NBA career.

The next step for Ivey will be to become a consistent shotmaker from the perimeter. He’s currently shooting 30.8% from distance on 4.7 attempts per game. He’s able to keep defenses honest due to a) his willingness to shoot and b) his confidence in attempting audacious stepbacks and pull-ups:

The flashes of shotmaking are incredible but he’s been an extremely streaky shooter. A more pressing issue is his lack of an in-between game. He’s an inconsistent and unwilling mid-range scorer who has a very analytically driven scoring diet. Two-thirds of his offense is at the rim or behind the arc, and while that type of a scoring profile is the most efficient, it’s more important to keep defenses honest from every area of the court.

He takes very little long twos and he hasn’t really added a floater to his game. At Purdue when he would just barrel into the lane going extremely fast, it was harder for him to consistently make floaters. However, now that he’s learning to consistently play with pace, slow the tempo, and be patient as a PNR operator, that could be a really dangerous shot for him. He gets so high off the ground that with his size he could get that shot over anyone if he wanted to. The floater is a staple of many elite guards’ games. It’s time for Ivey to begin developing one as well.

Jaden Ivey has all the tools to be a star. With his athleticism, speed, handle, and agility, he bends defenses at a level that very few can and he combines this ability to break down defenses with the ability to read them. That alone gives Ivey a high floor as a rim pressuring guard with the skill to set up his teammates. His ceiling lies within his shotmaking upside. If Ivey can continue to develop his shot from three and learn how to pick spots from the in-between area, he has superstar upside. Very few players combine his size, athleticism, and handle at the guard position. It’ll be key to watch Ivey’s development in these particular areas as the season goes on, but I’m very optimistic about his potential to change the Pistons’ franchise going forward.

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