Detroit Pistons: Jalen Duren smashing ceiling as a starter

Detroit Pistons center Jalen Duren Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
Detroit Pistons center Jalen Duren Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports /

Jalen Duren is becoming a interior force for the Detroit Pistons. His presence in the paint has been one of the bright spots for fans during this tumultuous season. After second year guard Cade Cunningham was sidelined for the season, fans had little hope for the year, but Duren has been a reason for optimism.

Jalen Duren was inserted into the starting lineup on December 12th against the Memphis Grizzlies and he recorded a double double, finishing with 10 points and 12 rebounds in his first career start. Fast forward to now, he’s averaging 8.6 points 11.4 rebounds and 1.8 assists in his thirteen games as a starter. The results have been promising for the youngest player in the NBA.

Detroit Pistons: Jalen Duren Rebounding his way into the history books

Rebounding has been his calling card, and Duren has shown a knack to dominate within his role. Since head coach Dwane Casey made the adjustment Duren has recorded nine games of 10+ boards. His 11.4 rebounds per game as a starter, would place him top five in the league. Even at his career average of 8.4 boards (which leads all rookies) he’s good enough for 26th.

His size and strength allows him to carve out space inside, leading to his 3.4 offensive rebounds per game which currently ranks 7th in the league. A stat that increased up to 4.2 since his stint in starting unit (which would place him at fourth).

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His rebounding efforts have received national media attention. Rightfully so. Jalen Duren became the second youngest player to record 100+ rebounds and 15 blocks in his first fourteen games in league history. That wasn’t the first time his name came up next to the former All-NBA player Dwight Howard, he made some more history in December linking him to Howard.

As referenced here a few weeks ago by Pistons PR:

Looks like Troy Weaver may have struck gold finding his future cornerstone big. He’ll be the perfect complementary piece to have with Cade Cunningham in pick and roll action. I’m sure more history is on its way for the young center as he grows into his game and his role increases.

Offensive Efficiency 

Offensive rebounding allows Jalen to take advantage of the defense quickly before resetting. He’s often slamming down ferocious two-handed dunks, collecting “And-One” opportunities along the way. Duren is now amongst the league leaders in total dunks. Proving what the eye-test has shown Pistons fans, that this kid is special.

His role being simplified by the Detroit Pistons’ coaching staff has benefited Duren tremendously. He understands what’s expected of him, and he’s thriving. His efficiency is a testament to the coaching staff putting him in a position to be successful. He’s currently shooting a strong 62.7 percent from the field as a starter, that would rank him seventh in the league. He’s only taking 5.8 attempts making the most of opportunities. His overall percentage for season 61.8 percent, which still tops Zion Williamson, DeAndre Ayton, and Nikola Jokic.

Jalen’s energy, intensity, and physicality is what made him a starter. Attributes needed in a young rebuilding core. He’s also a smart, and a well-rounded player who has so much untapped potential. Expect a lot more from Duren as he gets more comfortable with his teammates. The second half of the season will have his signature written all over it.

Can Duren be a passing big? 

Right now he’s just scratching the surface of what’s to come. He’s not likely to be a offensive hub like the Denver Nugget’s Nikola Jokic. However watching the film on Duren suggests he can develop into a serviceable passing threat.

He’s shown signs of that already in his short time with the Detroit Pistons. His assists can come in a variety of ways from offensive rebounds to short roll action just to name a few. He has made some solid reads in these sets, the coaching staff could be building trust in him. It’s plays like this out of a timeout that shows that trust.

Although his numbers aren’t eye popping at 1.8 assists per game, some of his passes have been. His assists are decent for a player in his role, other top tier rebounding bigs like Clint Capela and Rudy Gobert are both below one assist per game respectively.

He flashed signs of brilliance for his age, threading the needle in tight gaps. When he’s dominating the offensive glass he plays with a controlled aggression, allowing him to survey the court for three point shooters, then dunk it home himself if nothing is there. He’s a willing passer, expect those assist numbers to rise as the season continues, he’s getting more acclimated into the system.

He has shown that his ceiling is more than just an athletic big who can grab rebounds. Duren has an evolving offensive game that could eventually make him one of the best bigs in the NBA.

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