Storylines for 2022-23: Can Isaiah Livers fill the void left in Pistons by Grant’s exit?

(Editor’s Note: As the 2022/23 season approaches, Pistons.com will examine key storylines for the upcoming season and beyond. Today: Can Isaiah Livers capitalize on the opportunity created by the Jerami Grant trade and the need for a Covering wingers? with size and two-way potential?)

Derrick Rose was 30 and had had a successful year in Minnesota when the Pistons, who needed a goalscorer for Blake Griffin for a team that made the playoffs in Dwane Casey’s first season, sold the former MVP to an alleged bargain committed contract for two years and $15 million.

Rose served the Pistons admirably in his 1½ seasons, but the dividends from this signing could easily outstrip Rose’s tenure in Detroit. How that plays out now depends on where Isaiah Livers’ career goes.

Livers is the holdover of the February 2021 trade that saw the Pistons send Rose to New York. The return was Dennis Smith, the ninth pick of Dallas’ 2017 draft who fell out of the Knicks rotation and Charlotte’s second-round pick in this summer’s draft.

The 42ndnd The choice historically has little value, so it was no more than a coin toss that the Pistons would get long-term bang for the buck from this trade when Charlotte’s choice settled there. Livers, Michigan’s 2017 Mr. Basketball at Kalamazoo Central, spent four years in Michigan — recruited by John Beilein, now a key figure in Pistons player development — and saw his collegiate career end with a foot injury with the Wolverines in the Big in March 2021 Ten Tournament.

That injury, which would limit him to 19 games as a rookie, likely cost Livers several draft spots, although it’s impossible to know for certain which teams that picked ahead of the Pistons would have been won by Livers had he gone in would have been able to train for them this spring.

He won the Pistons without the practice. Evidence abounded as to what Livers brought to the table from his 119 college games. He could shoot clearly, hitting 41 percent of his career 3-point attempts, he was the ideal height at 6ft 7 with a sturdy frame for a winger, and there wasn’t the hint of a red flag in terms of character issues. Livers was known as a high IQ player and a great teammate at Michigan. But as is often the case with older collegiate players, the perception of a limited cap and average athleticism caused Livers’ draft stock to dwindle.

Fourteen months after his draft night, Livers will enter Pistons training camp to seize the opportunity that presents itself to join a young core starting with Cade Cunningham and comprising 11 players under the age of 24. Curiously, Livers is the oldest of this group – three days older than Hamidou Diallo, eight months older than Marvin Bagley III and 13 months older than Kevin Knox, all entering their fifth season after a year of college.

Livers credits his four years in Michigan with his ability to break through in the NBA last spring, when he was released after fully recovering from foot surgery. Getting into the Season 61 roster isn’t easy for seasoned veteransSt Game as Livers was at the end of February, let alone a rookie. But Livers never seemed overwhelmed, immediately proving to be an effective 3-point shooter, reliable defender and low turnover player.

“That aspect has allowed me to grow,” Livers said over the summer of his ability to absorb experiences even while he was in street clothes and rehab. “I didn’t play much, but watched a lot. That was critical, only observing the small mistakes. I knew when I walked in I’ve seen everything. I know the NBA talk, I know the plays, and Coach Casey trusts me like a veteran. So I go out and play like one.”

To be sure, Casey began supporting Livers’ NBA future even before he was allowed to play, impressed with his observation and communication skills and intrigued by his combination of shooting and size.

Putting it all together, Livers must be viewed as a serious dark side contender to fill the gap on the starting lineup left by Jerami Grant’s move to Portland, which began a chain of transactions that led to that Draft general manager Troy Weaver maneuvered night to pick up a second lottery ticket, landing 18-year-old big man Jalen Duren, who Casey compares to a young Shawn Kemp, with the 13thth Select.

“As soon as I saw Jerami move on to Portland – what, I love him; He taught me a lot just to get me ready for the NBA season while I was injured — oh yeah, as a competitor, I have my eyes open,” Livers said. “Casey knows. Troy knows. With the work I’ve put in and what I want my career to be like, I want to play 10, 15 and more years so obviously my eyes are definitely on that point and minutes.”

Livers will compete with a long list of candidates for the spot Grant vacates. Diallo, Bagley, trade growth Alec Burks, and Kelly Olynyk all bring helpful traits. If the Pistons are encouraged enough by Isaiah Stewart’s Summer League turn at power forward to consider more of him at this point, then there’s room for Nerlen’s Noel or even Duren to enter the mix.

But perhaps no candidate leaves the Pistons with fewer weak points in the lineup than Livers when playing at the high end of his and the organization’s expectations. Adding a 40 percent 3-point shooter for Saddiq Bey would give Cade Cunningham the space to use his creative genius as a playmaker and open up lanes for rookie Jaden Ivey’s explosive athleticism to maximize. Livers’ defensive versatility would accommodate Casey’s desire to switch at will.

Livers hit 42 percent of three hits, averaging 20 minutes per game and 71 percent of his shots from the arc in his 19-game rookie season. Livers has confidence in showing other areas of his game, but he stays on whatever lane Casey assigns until asked to do more. He earned high marks in the Summer League roster for his defensive communication skills and leadership skills, further encouraging the Pistons for his place in their future. One of Livers’ great appeals is that it suits so many different lineup combinations. In the end, that could mean that he gets a job in the starting XI this season.

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