1-2 punch: Pistons add tantalizing big man Jalen Duren to Jaden Ivey

Minutes after Troy Weaver cemented the Pistons backcourt for the next generation by drafting Jaden Ivey to pair with Cade Cunningham, he fortified the frontcourt. Just as he did in his first draft in 2020, when Weaver found a way to pick up two extra first-round picks he turned into Isaiah Stewart and Saddiq Bey, Weaver maneuvered to land the 13thpick to spend on Jalen Duren, considered the top center in the draft.

It was a dizzying coup for Weaver and came at minimal cost to the Pistons – a reported 2025 No. 1 pick obtained from Milwaukee and accommodating the Knicks by absorbing about $9 million in salary – considering the enormous upside of Duren.

“Elite physical gifts,” Weaver said. “He’s the youngest player in the draft. Tremendous upside, tremendous young man. Elite physical gifts and elite hands. Big-time rebounder, rim protector, puts pressure on the basket. He just brings a physicality and a presence and the size that we were looking for.”

Duren joins a Pistons frontcourt that includes Stewart, 21 and a two-year veteran who showed marked improvement over the second half of the 2021-22 season, plus veteran Kelly Olynyk. The Pistons are also considered likely to retain Marvin Bagley III, 23, obtained in February at the trade deadline from Sacramento.

Weaver said Duren will fit well with Stewart and can play alongside of him, as well.

“They’re different. He’s bigger,” Weaver said. “His presence is more pronounced. Isaiah has shown to be able to play out on the floor a little more, shooting the three, but they’re different. They can play together easily. (Al) Horford and (Robert) Williams played together (in Boston). You got the two big kids in Cleveland (Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen) playing together. Two different players but they both bring hard hats.”

Duren was ranked the No. 1 recruit in the high school class of 2022 before reclassifying and spending his freshman season at Memphis, where he averaged 12.0 points, 8.0 rebounds and 2.1 blocked shots a game. Standing 6-foot-11 with a 7-foot-5 wingspan, Duren has been compared to DeAndre Jordan or Robert Williams for his explosiveness and potential as a shot-blocker and lob threat.

“I thought the young man showed tremendous growth,” Weaver said. “He skipped his senior year of high school. We all know that’s a year you really get to stick your chest out and he wasn’t allowed to do that. He jumped into college at 17 years old and early on was trying to figure it out. But by the second half of the season, he had started to really figure it out and realized he had to work. He had never really been challenged prior to going to college. He was dominant. He came on in a big way. That was a testament to him and his character and his perseverance.”

The Pistons will have an incredibly diverse and deep roster of young talent headed into the 2022-23 season – all acquired by Weaver since taking over as general manager in June 2020. Ivey and Duren join Stewart, Cade Cunningham, Killian Hayes, Saben Lee and Isaiah Livers, all 23 or younger and four of them 21 or younger. Adding Ivey and Duren makes the Pistons considerably more athletic.

The Pistons will go into free agency with more cap space than any other franchise with the opportunity to augment the young core with a key veteran or two.

“We’ll look for young veterans to continue to help build this out, but there’s nobody in free agency we can find that would be younger than our guys. A 23-year-old is going to be a veteran on this team. But definitely looking for some guys that can continue to move you forward.”

Weaver said after the Pistons picked Ivey at No. 5 – and were bombarded by calls from rival teams looking to trade for him – the Duren deal came together in harried minutes.

“It pretty much came together after the Ivey pick,” he said. “Canvassing a few players and he was one of them. It presented itself and we were aggressive to make it happen.”