Pistons draft: Could Detroit take one of the top centers?

Memphis center Jalen Duren dunks against Gonzaga during the second round of the NCAA tournamentSyndication The Commercial Appeal
Memphis center Jalen Duren dunks against Gonzaga during the second round of the NCAA tournamentSyndication The Commercial Appeal /
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Detroit Pistons, NBA Draft Lottery
People look at the draft lottery order after the 2022 NBA Draft Lottery Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports /

The NBA Finals are in full swing, and the NBA Draft is upon us, with draft night a little more than two weeks away. The Detroit Pistons will select 5th overall after dropping two spots in the lottery.

As fans continue to dispute who the Pistons should select, a slew of names have been mentioned as prospective players, and the list only grows when the possibility of Portland trading the seventh pick for Jerami Grant is mentioned.

One of the most intriguing prospects is Memphis center Jalen Duren, who declared for the draft after a successful freshman season.

Although Duren likely won’t be a top-five pick, he could certainly be an option at seven if Detroit were to acquire Portland’s pick, or if another trade were to occur later in the lottery.

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Here’s a look at Duren’s strengths and weaknesses, and how he could possibly fit on Detroit’s roster.

Pistons draft: Jalen Duren’s strengths

Considered by many to be the second-best center behind Chet Holmgren in the 2022 NBA Draft, Duren is an incredible athlete, with excellent size and length. At 6-foot-11, 250 pounds, and a massive 7-foot-5 wingspan, Duren possesses some of the best physical tools of this year’s prospects. At Memphis, Duren was a dominant paint presence, asserting his force through rebounding, blocking shots, and running the length of the floor as well as any other big man in college basketball.

Last season, the big man averaged 8.1 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game, to go along with 12 points a night as well. Duren’s non-stop motor, coupled with his advanced timing, made him one of the most appealing prospects for this year’s draft. With such gifted physical traits, and a willingness to utilize them at such a young age, Duren projects as an elite rim-runner in today’s game, and an energetic post presence with a penchant for blocking shots, creating second-chance opportunities on offense, and rebounding on both ends of the floor at a high rate.

While his game is not as flashy as his counterparts, Duren’s role at Memphis was aligned with the same tasks that many scouts, executives, and GMs covet in today’s big men.

Centers in the NBA who can guard on the perimeter, protect the paint, and provide their team with additional opportunities through rebounds are at a premium.

For evidence of this, look no further than Robert Williams of the Boston Celtics, who has emerged as the anchor of Boston’s stalwart defense. While Williams may not be a go-to offensive option for the Celtics, his impact on the floor this postseason extends far beyond the realms of the statsheet.

Williams’ ability to defend, rebound, set screens, and protect the rim at all costs have reinvigorated Boston’s defense, who are second in defensive rating in this year’s playoffs. In his lone year at Memphis, Duren’s game embodied many of these qualities, and at only eighteen years old, it’s safe to say he hasn’t scratched the surface of reaching his potential.