The Detroit Pistons may have struck gold when they drafted Jalen Duren.
The 6-foot-11, 255 lbs. center is 18 years old and entered the draft after one year with the Memphis Tigers. His raw athleticism was on full display in summer league, where he dazzled Pistons fans. He averaged 11.3 points, 3.3 rebounds, 2.0 assists with a block, while shooting 65 percent from the field, often seen throwing down emphatic dunks. He showed flashes of serious potential, however the Detroit Pistons shouldn’t be in a rush to unlock it.
Fans are excited for what Duren brings both as a lob threat and as a rim protector. Being patient with the future defensive anchor could pay off in a variety of ways. Bringing him along slowly could benefit his development, and the organization long term.
If the roster stands as it is today there could be a log jam at the center position, with Isaiah Stewart, Jalen Duren, Nerlens Noel, and Kelly Olynyk possibly getting spot minutes at the five. This will make carving out a role for Duren that much more difficult for Dwane Casey’s staff early in his rookie season.
Detroit Pistons: finding value in vets while focusing on player development
Luckily Troy Weaver and Dwane Casey designed a method to this restoration in Detroit. Providing minutes for Noel could prove to be valuable as the season progresses. Weaver loves flipping veterans on good contracts for draft compensation. Adding more assets during a rebuild can be challenging, Troy Weaver has nonchalantly made it into a art form.
Since taking over Weaver has used this formula before with players like Delon Wright, and Trey Lyles, building up their value on the trade market before pulling the trigger. If that’s the approach from the franchise you could see a trade deal involving Noel. He’s on a expiring contract and if there’s a team looking to add a veteran, Troy’s phone could be ringing. This gives the team the opportunity to continue focusing on player development, while freeing up minutes later down the road.
Giving the minutes to Noel allows Duren to develop and grow his game before being asked to contribute. Jalen could find himself with the Motor City Cruise as he gets acclimated to the system. Learning and understanding the defensive schemes will help with the transition to the NBA. The goal is preparing him for long term success and with that there are no shortcuts. Troy Weaver preaches winning, sustainable winning to be exact and that’s how you build it.
Detroit Pistons: Bigs need more time to develop
Jalen Duren has been around some brilliant basketball minds in his young career. His college days at Memphis were spent being coached by a trio of NBA greats Anfernee Hardaway, Rasheed Wallace, and Larry Brown. In the NBA it’s a different monster, it’ll still take time to put it all together, especially for a big like Duren.
They are to the defense, what the point guard is to the offense. A center has to understand where to be, he has to communicate to his guards and make sure they’re in position, facilitating the defense, surveying the floor like a linebacker in football. Communicating the assignments keeps everyone on a string as one cohesive unit. This takes a understanding of the game that can’t be expected from a 18 year old even with his high IQ. There will be mistakes but minimizing them will be key as he learns to be able to process things in real game speed.
Another aspect will be the ability to strengthen his body. The NBA game can take a toll on a big with the constant banging. Duren getting stronger will help him absorb the contact and play through it. This will increase his rebounding ability and rim protection. I could see him being a formidable drop coverage big, who can switch occasionally too.
The sky is the limit for Jalen Duren. He’s still learning his game and finding himself as a player. There’s no rush for him to be a factor early on in year one. The organization should take their time with this young man. He will eventually be the starting center in Detroit give him time to become that.
When I watch him play he has the defensive potential of Theo Ratliff, a former Pistons player. The Rattler as he was called during his time in Detroit was a feared shot blocker who controlled the paint. He has the instincts and timing defensively that Theo showed, and just needs to get more familiar with the NBA game. Duren has the potential to be much better offensively due to his elite athleticism.
Coach Casey compared him to a Shawn Kemp type, an athletically gifted and explosive big man. He has shown glimpses of his ability to contribute on the offensive end of the floor. He’s best suited as a lob threat, as he puts immense amounts of pressure on defenses above the rim. The gravity creates shooting opportunities in the pick and roll offense, something this Detroit Pistons team lacked most of last year.
Jalen Duren will make his mark on this franchise in due time. He hasn’t even started to scratch the surface yet. Honing in on his overwhelming potential may take some time. This is why the team picked up a veteran in Nerlens Noel to alleviate some of the pressure on the young rookie.
Fans expect his minutes to ramp up in the second half of the season. That’s more than likely when he’ll become a rotational piece. Pistons fans have no worries when he does get on the floor he’ll make a splash, sending ripples throughout the league.