The Detroit Pistons start the regular season Wednesday against the No. 1 player in the 2022 draft, Paolo Banchero, and the Orlando Magic. The Pistons added Jaden Ivey with the No. 5 pick after both teams finished at the bottom of the Eastern Conference last season and are trying to return to playoff-caliber levels.
Ivey has showcased his speed and shiftiness in the lane during the preseason that is reminiscent of Ja Morant and the way he plays the game.
"I definitely see the comparisons between me and Ja," Ivey told Yahoo Sports. "Just the athleticism we both bring. As far as IQ, I feel like I’m really improving to where I can play either the one or two."
The two went head-to-head for the first time last week in a preseason game and Morant went off for 31 points and eight rebounds in the Grizzlies' 126-111 win, while Ivey finished with seven points and four assists in 21 minutes.
At one point during the game, Morant blocked a 3-point attempt by Ivey and finished with a dunk on the other end, giving Ivey a welcome to the NBA moment.
Ja getting it done on both ends 💪#NBAPreseason pic.twitter.com/KEMyeHQnxO— NBA TV (@NBATV) October 13, 2022
There are always going to be growing pains and adjustments, especially for a young team, but Ivey believes this is the group that can finally make a playoff push. The Pistons finished 23-59 last season and have failed to win a playoff series since 2008, but there's a lot to like with Cade Cunningham, Ivey and Killian Hayes in the backcourt and Isaiah Stewart and Jalen Duren in the post.
"The goal this year is to make the playoffs and make a deep run in the playoffs," Ivey said. "Sometimes it’s going to take losses to learn from them and we just have to keep growing as a team and keep learning from each other.
"It’s been great building the chemistry with Cade and Killian. Every single day I’m just trying to learn from Cade and the older guys. They played in a lot of games together so it’s always good to ask questions and learn from one another."
Ivey, who averaged 17.3 points last season at Purdue, showed glimpses of what kind of player he could be in the NBA during the preseason. He got to his spots with ease, found ways to finish at the rim around stronger players and stepped into his 3-point jumper with confidence.
"He'll make it a lot easier for everybody because he has a great feel for the game," Cunningham said after the preseason loss to the Grizzlies. "He brings a different dynamic with his skill set."
It's a long season and there's a lot of talent in the Eastern Conference, but Ivey is ready for the challenge.
"I don’t see any pressure at all," Ivey said. "I just see it as a moment to just strive for greatness. I’ve always dreamed of being in this position and I worked hard to get here and I’m not going to stop working."