Exiting the 2022 NBA Draft, the Detroit Pistons were widely regarded as one of the biggest winners. Not only did Detroit find a dynamic scoring guard at No. 5 overall in Purdue’s Jaden Ivey, they maneuvered the board to their advantage and secured another lottery pick with Memphis’ Jalen Duren.
After adding Ivey and Duren to an already strong nucleus led by 2021 No. 1 overall pick Cade Cunningham, the Pistons are ushering in the next successful era of Detroit basketball.
A full-on revival is underway in the Motor City, with general manager Troy Weaver calling the shots. The Pistons had an eventful week, beginning with veteran forward Jerami Grant being traded to the Portland Trail Blazers. While the return was a bit lighter than expected, the move created significant cap space and the added artillery was then used to acquire Duren. This calculated move by the Pistons’ front office shows their vision and how determined they are to build the best ecosystem around Cunningham.
Ivey, the Boilermakers' electric lead guard who took the NCAA by storm, averaged 17.3 points, 4.9 rebounds and 3.1 assists on 57.9% True Shooting. With his aggressive scoring mentality, Ivey should form a terrific one-two punch alongside Cunningham in the Pistons' backcourt. Both 20-year-olds will feed off of each other’s best attributes, and they can both play on- or off-ball.
Ivey checks every box as a perfect running mate for Cunningham. Not only will he take pressure off Cunningham, the No. 5 overall pick will keep defenses honest on every single possession. Defenses will have to pick their poison when guarding this backcourt, and the ceiling for this duo is immense.
“Absolutely he blends with Cade,” Weaver said of Ivey. “Both competitive spirits, [and] he’ll help generate easy buckets, play on the second side, be able to create for others on the floor as well. We think it’s a big-time fit... What he brings to the table is he’s got electric speed, and he’ll create opportunities offensively for us because of his speed. And he has the measurables to become a big-time defender. His athletic gifts along with the tenacity he brings to the floor and competitive spirit are things that attracted us to Jaden.”
Although Ivey isn’t from Michigan, the Detroit roots are profound. This is why Ivey was so comfortable ending up with the Pistons, only working out for them and the Orlando Magic during the pre-draft process.
Ivey’s grandfather, James Hunter, played for the Detroit Lions. Ivey’s mother, Niele Ivey, played for the WNBA’s Detroit Shock during her professional career (and is now the head coach of Notre Dame women’s basketball team). Ivey’s father, Javin Hunter, played high-school basketball at Detroit Country Day School as well. Ivey was born and raised in Indiana, but given his family's history in Detroit, the Pistons treated his arrival as a pseudo homecoming — presenting him with each of his relative's Detroit jerseys during his introductory press conference.
During Jaden Ivey’s introductory press conference, the Pistons presented him with jerseys his grandfather, father and mother wore during their playing days in Detroit ❤️pic.twitter.com/efu8dHOSJH— BasketballNews.com (@basketbllnews) June 25, 2022
“When you’re trying to construct your team, you want to make sure you fill certain holes,” Weaver said. “First of all, [Ivey] is a tremendous young man. Tremendous family background. Strong Detroit roots. Obviously, his grandfather was a Detroit Lion. His grandmother still lives here, has a clothing store. So, it’s a homecoming for him."
In the modern NBA, elite guard play is what wins you games at a consistent clip. Pairing Cunningham with Ivey could quickly become a mismatch nightmare for opposing defenses, especially once they gain a rapport.
“Versatility, length, athleticism, competitive spirit,” Weaver said of the backcourt duo of Cunningham and Ivey. “Looking forward to watching both of those guys playing together.”
Once the Sacramento Kings decided to pass on Ivey and select Iowa wing Keegan Murray at No. 4, a ton of teams were calling the Pistons about their No. 5 selection. Weaver said he's never experienced that much trade activity at any other point in his career. However, even with strong overtures from multiple teams, the Pistons were not going to pass up an opportunity to pair two potential star guards together for the foreseeable future.
“We said, ‘Okay, one of our guys is on the board. Let’s cash in,'' Weaver said.
After securing Ivey, the Pistons weren't done. Detroit's front office shifted their attention to adding Duren, who was the cherry on top of a historic night for the organization. In a three-team deal with the New York Knicks and Charlotte Hornets, the Pistons received Duren in exchange for the pick they just grabbed from Portland in the Grant trade less than 48 hours earlier.