Remember big summer concern of Jalen Duren?

center Jalen Duren (0) . Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
center Jalen Duren (0) . Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports /

Jalen Duren just had 19 rebounds in a game, the third-youngest player to get that many in NBA history. That shows you can not draw definite conclusions from summer league.

Everyone remembers that Jalen Duren was the youngest player drafted this year. Heck, he just turned 19-years-old in November. He was not old enough to vote in last year’s elections – that is really young.

After Pistons general manager Troy Weaver swung a trade with the Knicks for the No. 13 pick in the draft, the 6-foot-11 Duren has been a fan favorite to analyze for Detroit fans.

Many soon thought he should start, after playing well at the start of the season (the way the Pistons started, not hard to stand out), Coach Dwane Casey eventually agreed, and Duren has started the last three games.

In its victory over the Charlotte Hornets, Duren was dominant on the defensive end. He blocked three shots and grabbed a career-high 19 rebounds.

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In the past four games, Duren is averaging 14.3 rebounds a game. That would lead the NBA, by a lot, if he had done it over the course of the entire season.

Yes, it is a small sample, but the consistency is impressive, particularly so early in Duren’s career. At Roman Catholic High School in Philadelphia, and for one year at Memphis in college, Duren was usually the bigger, faster, more athletic post player on the floor.

He now faces every game someone his size (yes, Charlotte had Mason Plumlee against him, but you get the idea) and much more experienced, but he has made a quick adjustment from July.

He is certainly not a finished product. Duren shoots just an Andre Dummond-esque 51-percent from the foul line, and he does not shoot from outside at all (he has taken one three-point shot all season)

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But the rookie can rebound. Now flashback to the Summer of 2022. There was no sign that Duren was even an adequate rebounder back then.

Summer Jalen Duren was quite different on the boards with Detroit Pistons

Along with fellow first-round draftee Jaden Ivey, Duren was one of the Pistons marquee players at the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas. While Ivey was somewhat familiar to Detroit fans due to playing in the Big 10 with Purdue, Duren was more of an unknown quantity.

Duren started three games in Vegas and one thing became clear: Jalen Duren can’t rebound.

Duren is 6-foot-11, 255-pounds and has the jumping ability of a pogo stick. In summer league, he was going against fellow rookies, benchwarmers and guys just hoping for a training camp invite. Like in high school and college, he was usually the biggest, fastest, most athletic big man.

Yet, Duren averaged a paltry 3.3 rebounds a game in Las Vegas.

How bad is that? The Pistons other summer league center, Balsa Koprivica, a 2021 second round pick still playing professionally in Europe, averaged 4.0 rebounds a game.

When Duren is not hitting the boards as well as Koprivica, that put up a lot of red flags.

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Luckily, the saying was true: What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.

How did Jalen Duren suddenly turn into a rebounding machine?

You did not have to be some expert NBA scout or analyst to see what Duren’s problem rebounding was in Las Vegas: He never moved to the ball. He seemed always flat-footed when a shot went up.

At his size, rebounds generally just came right to him. But even at the level of summer league, there are other big men and high-flying athletes who would grab the ball before it would fall to Duren.

Did Duren learn his lesson from summer league? You betcha!

In the Pistons first two games of the season, Duren had 10 rebounds in each. He only had 10 rebounds total in summer league. He was no longer waiting for the ball to come to him, he was going after it, and with his size and athletic ability, it is very tough to hold him off.

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Some players never try to correct their weaknesses, out of ego or inability to put the work in. It is gratifying to see that Durem despite his youth and inexperience, quickly worked on a perceived weakness, and has now turned it into the strongest part of his game.