Those three standouts have paced the 2022 class through the
first two weeks of NBA action. However, while he hasn't been in
quite the same stratosphere, Jaden Ivey has also surged onto the
scene. The fifth overall selection is putting up a cool 15.7
points, 4.3 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 1.3 steals per game with the
Detroit Pistons, and has reached double-digit points in each of his
seven games played.
Detroit (2-6) might not be winning a whole lot — and backcourt
partner Cade Cunningham has understandably received more shine for
his oustanding start to his second season — but let's not overlook
Ivey, who has bolted to the basket with the energy that sparked his
rise to the upper echelon of the NBA Draft.
Ivey went 8-for-17 from the field en route to 19 points in
Monday's narrow loss to the undefeated Milwaukee Bucks. He torched
some of the best individual guard defenders and big-man helpers in
the league, including Giannis Antetokounmpo as shown above.
Ivey's ludicrous burst, long-stride size and length were
hallmarks of his pre-draft scouting report, and those traits are
translating seamlessly. He's also got this remarkable ability to
keep the ball low and out of a defender's blocking range until the
last possible moments, where he can flip a shot up and finish. That
takes serious focus and upper-body strength, in addition to the
vertical explosion to get to these shots:
Ivey is driving the basketball 11 times per game according to
Second Spectrum, which is second among rookies behind Banchero — a
bar cleared by 39 NBA players this season. Among the 65 high-volume
attackers averaging eight or more drives per game, Ivey's 54.8%
shooting efficiency ranks 13th and his 14.3% assist rate is 10th.
Luka Doncic is the only other player in the top-15 for both
categories, and RJ Barrett, Malcolm Brogdon and Spencer Dinwiddie
are the only others in both top-20s.
He only had one assist against Milwaukee, but it was a notable
one that showed he doesn't have to use downhill speed to create
Ivey probes here with an empty-corner drive and is looking to
engage Brook Lopez. He knows the Bucks defend pretty conservatively
off the ball, so he pins Jrue Holiday on his hip, wades in until he
has Lopez's attention, and, then, hits Isaiah Stewart for the easy
dunk. It's a simple play, but it shows Ivey is understanding how to
attack and manipulate an opposing set defense.
These downhill drives and dishes, however, draw remarkable
contrast. Ivey gets a head of steam, but still has the wherewithal
to notice a rotating defense and his sliding players. This leads to
some highlight-reel assists; his 6.5% turnover rate on drives is
also solid, particularly for a rookie.
As Bryce Simon (@MotorCityHoops) points out, Ivey finding a
mid-range rhythm is the next step to becoming a more well-rounded
threat with the ball in his hands. He's just 5-of-22 in the
mid-range so far and some of the misses look ugly. But Ivey
fortunately doesn't have to carry a primary creator load — that
falls on his partner Cunningham (and sometimes Killian Hayes), and
allows him to devastate teams away from the ball.
In a very tiny sample size, Ivey is 7-for-10 shooting on cuts so
far, per Synergy. The efficiency is nice, but more notable right
now is how he's seeing spaces open up and attacking them. Ivey
recognizes how a ball-handler will draw in the defense and create
pockets of opportunity. In this way, he draws some similarities to
Bruce Brown, a point guard who used his court mapping to morph into
a dynamic cutter:
Ivey probably won't follow the Bruce Brown track; he's far more
dangerous with the ball in his hands. But cutting effectively gives
him another way to play next to Cunningham while he's learning the
ropes as a lead NBA guard.
The 20-year-old has been streaky so far as a long-range shooter
(though a 34.5% clip isn't so bad), and he's got plenty of room to
improve on defense — like most rookies. But it's exciting to see
some of Ivey's best attributes translating to the court right away,
and it's promising that he's doing more than just charging into a
crowd and hucking up shots. Approximately 47% of Ivey's total shots
have come at the rim, per Cleaning the Glass, ranking in the 94th
percentile among combo guards. He's finishing off a
more-than-respectable 68% of those shots.
If Ivey is reading the floor this well, this early, imagine what
he could look like by the end of the season. He's as much a
frontrunner in the Rookie of the Year race as any other candidate,
and is already part of what makes the Pistons a must-watch young