When the Detroit Pistons selected Jaden Ivey with the fifth overall pick of the 2022 NBA Draft, the three-time champions were hoping the elite athlete would be the key to turning the franchise around next to Cade Cunningham, Saddiq Bey, and Isaiah Stewart.

Through 30 games, the rookie out of Purdue has established that his elite athleticism is his greatest gift, and until he can harness it just a bit more, it will lead to some struggles as he learns the NBA. He can’t blow by defenders like he did in high school and college. Now he has to learn how to change speeds and harness his lethal first step to shoot outside the paint.

“You watch him the open floor, and he’s dangerous,” Pistons head coach Willie Green said per The Athletic. “He’ll continue to develop his shot. He’ll get better as time progresses. That’s just how those guys are.”

Luckily for Ivey, there is confidence in Detroit and from coaches around the NBA that Ivey possesses the work ethic needed to become a pivotal centerpiece to the Pistons returning to relevancy. Within Detroit, Ivey works out with Pistons assistant coach Rex Kalamian and player development coach Jordan Brink after practice to improve his mid-range game.

The gains haven’t been immediate, but Detroit and Ivey know that the mid-range addition to his bag will force opponents to defend him honestly and will be a crucial counter against teams clogging the paint when Ivey drives to the rim. Conversely, Ivey has swiftly helped Detroit get to the free-throw line more often. As of Tuesday, the Pistons rank no. 1 in free-throw attempts per game, and Ivey ranks fourth on the roster in free throws per game, third among all rookies with 4.2.

“He plays with a fearlessness, from the outside looking in,” Cavaliers coach JB Bickerstaff said.” And it’s one of those things where, if you continue to put in the work when you have that mindset, you have an opportunity to be a really good player, and I think he does.”

The development and improvement will come as Ivey continues to work on his game. Magic head coach Jamahl Mosley saw that Ivey is “a very serious kid about his work.” He noticed this trait when the Magic hosted pre-draft workouts and interviews with Ivey.

“Sitting down and talking to him a little bit, he’s a very serious kid about his work,” said Mosley, whose Orlando team, the holder of the No. 1 pick, worked out and interviewed Ivey during the pre-draft process. “You respect that. You enjoy that. To see someone who takes their craft seriously. Being one of those guys who is going to be the first in the gym and last out of the gym. He’s got a basketball mind and just wants to work.”

Clippers head coach Ty Lue said Ivey has been “amazing” during his rookie year. He has also noticed that Ivey’s aforementioned pressure on the rim helps tip games in Detroit’s favor. The former champ believes that the problems Ivey will face come from “just understanding the NBA game,” and compared the former lottery pick to Russell Westbrook, specifically comparing how they get downhill and stay in attack mode.

“At the point guard position, more than anything, just understanding the NBA game,” Lue said when asked about the big problem young guards faces. “What (Ivey) does every single night? He plays hard, he attacks, and he gets downhill. Soon, he’ll see, ‘OK, I have to get a mid-range shot. Now, I have to improve my 3-point shooting.’ That’ll open up everything for him. The change of pace, change of speeds … he’ll get that. Right now, he’s a lot like Westbrook when he came into the game — getting downhill, attacking.

Thus far, Ivey is averaging 15.2 points, 4.0 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game on 41.2 percent shooting from the field and 31.5 percent from beyond the arc.

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