Even with being booked at midnight, there was plenty of excitement for the Detroit Pistons Summer League game.
Detroit defeated the Portland Trail Blazers 81-78 in very thrilling fashion on Thursday night or Friday morning. This allowed us to see how Detroit’s prized rookies, Jaden Ivey and Jalen Duren, blended with the rest of the roster. Even though there were some growing pains, they left the game providing us with glaring optimism.
Wins or losses don’t usually indicate how well teams are playing in Summer League. Also, it’s unfair to come to major conclusions after just one game into the young careers of these players.
It’s impossible to have zero thoughts after watching a game like that. Here are some of the biggest takeaways from Detroit’s 2022 Summer League debut:
Detroit Pistons rookies show No Fear.
There are high expectations on the shoulders of the Pistons’ first-round draft picks of the future. Even if they aren’t met in the immediate future, Ivey and Duren displayed a lot of the skills that made them so alluring in the draft.
Ivey finished the game scoring 20 points while shooting 6 of 14 from the field. The No. 5 overall pick also grabbed six rebounds and dished six assists. His ability to draw fouls was also an impressive aspect of his game. Ivey created lots of contact getting inside the lane and was a perfect 6 of 6 from the free-throw line against Portland.
With franchise point guard Cade Cunningham inactive for the game, Ivey saw many reps initiating offense for the Pistons. He started off the game slow with a few turnovers and off passes. His confidence never faltered after making mistakes or dealing with tough defensive pressure.
Ivey’s courage seemed to elevate as the game went on. He was most productive in the second half and didn’t turn the ball over in the final two quarters. After finding a groove with his dribble, knocking down some key triples, and throwing down some impressive dunks, you could see the potential radiating. He also threw a fast break transition pass late in a close game that turned heads throughout the gym.
Detroit also got a tremendous spark from Duren, their No. 13 overall pick. Ivey and Duren got fans out of their seats with an immediate alley-oop on the first play of the game.
Ivey to Duren 👀
— Pistons Talk (@Pistons__Talk) July 8, 2022
In limited time, Duren showcased some tremendous ability for the Pistons. While playing just under 12 minutes, Detroit’s rookie center scored nine points and had two emphatic blocks. The Pistons put Duren’s athleticism on high display with three completed lobs from the guards.
Duren played off the ball often, but he wasn’t just roaming in the paint. The rookie center was strong and quick enough to run many pick-and-roll screens from the perimeter. He also had many quick drives to the hoop from the short corner to spread out the defense.
The most impressive part of Duren’s performance was confirmed by head coach Dwane Casey. During a sideline interview with ESPN, Casey confirmed that yesterday was Duren’s first day of practice with the team since the trade with the New York Knicks took some time to finalize:
“The amazing thing is this morning was the first time he was able to practice because the trade didn’t go through until last night,” said Casey. “So, his athleticism, his explosion, he can go from zero to 100 just like that.”
Fans got to see an impressive display of those attributes. These two rookies will continue to draw attention through the rest of the Summer League.
Isaiah Stewart Has Been Working on Stretch-Four Duties for the Detroit Pistons
The power forward spot is one of the biggest mysteries of the Pistons’ roster right now. With no solidified player at the position yet, this has opened a major opportunity for third-year big Isaiah Stewart.
Beef Stew made his presence felt off the ball, setting tough screens that helped get wings open shots. His defensive versatility also shined as he held his own, controlling the paint and taking on assignments on the perimeter. The Pistons saw an impressive showing from Stewart as he tallied 13 points and nine rebounds.
The most encouraging development of Stewart’s game looked to be his perimeter shooting. Last season, his perimeter game was never a focal point of the Pistons’ offense. He was mainly utilized as a pick-and-roll screener who would roll to the basket for layups or rebounds.
Stewart started the Summer League game against Portland at power forward and Duren at center. This allowed the Pistons to use Stewart more on the outside to work on his jump shot. He didn’t disappoint as he knocked down 3 of his 4 three-point attempts. If this continues to grow, Stewart could create a thriving defensive tandem next to Duren or veteran Nerlens Noel in the frontcourt.
New Coaching Opportunities on the Detroit Pistons’ bench.
The NBA Summer League isn’t just an opportunity for players to establish themselves. It’s also an opportunity for young coaches to understand how to lead young players.
Detroit’s Summer League unit is coached by Jordan Brink, with Dwane Casey watching on the sideline. The Pistons are also opening doors for former NBA players beginning in the coaching world. Thursday night’s game featured former Piston Jason Maxiell, former champion Rashard Lewis and former Knicks assistant coach Keith Bogans as some of the most notable assistant coaches on the bench.
#Pistons Summer League team will be coached by Jordan Brink, who pushed his way up from being a video intern.
They also list Keith Bogans, Jason Maxiell and Rashard Lewis as assistants … that’s some list. pic.twitter.com/DVljyKXBsk
— Rod Beard (@detnewsRodBeard) July 7, 2022
Seeing some throwback players named as assistant coaches was quite a pleasant surprise. They’re also some encouraging choices given their skillsets as players. Maxiell was a scrappy, undersized forward with explosive ability, somewhat similar to the dynamics of Stewart and Duren.
Lewis was one of the original stretch-fours of the modern NBA, which could pay extreme dividends to the young Pistons working on their shooting and spacing. It will be intriguing to see if their impact and teachings can help this young franchise grow.