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Know the Prospect: Jaden Ivey

I-vey, You-vey, we all scream for…

Saint Peter’s v Purdue Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Jaden Ivey (6’4”, 200 lbs) of Purdue is a combo guard with oodles of athleticism and ball-handling ability, an improving range from downtown, and crafty skills around the rim. He’s so tantalizing that some teams, including the New York Knicks, may try to move up in the 2022 NBA Draft for a chance to select him.

The Sacramento Kings currently hold the fourth pick in the draft, which is coincidentally where many prognosticators rank Ivey. There are rumors that the Kings are amenable to swapping their pick for a hefty haul. They may have tipped their hand by not even working the guy out:

Do the Knicks value Ivey enough to put a big pile on the offer table? Boy, Thursday’s Draft Night is shaping up to be must-see TV.

Jaden, a 20-year-old from South Bend, IN, has been compared to Dwyane Wade and Ja Morant, and called “a much, much, much better version of Josh Richardson.” (NBADraftroom.com) The Purdue Boilermakers finished 29-8 (14-6, 3rd in Big Ten) this year, led by the sophomore Ivey with his averages of 17.3 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 3.1 assists on 46% shooting from the field.

Here are twenty-six minutes of highlights for your enjoyment. Prepare your drool cup.

Did you ooh and ahh? Eh?

This year, 37% of his shots came at the rim, where he cashed in 66% of the time, and only a quarter of his makes there were assisted (meaning that the guy can facilitate for himself). Only 22% of his shots were two-point jumpers, which he completed at a rate of only 32%. And, 41% of his shots were from deep, where he averaged 36%, which was a leap from his 26% the previous season. (Stats courtesy of Hoop-Math.com.)

Over 100 possessions, he had a defensive rating of 103% and an offensive rating of 115%. He made 74% of his free throws. So far, so good.

Jaden has a 6’9.5” wingspan and comes from an impressive line of athletes. Mom is Niele Ivey, who played five years in the WNBA and is now head women’s basketball coach at Notre Dame. Dad is Javin Hunter, a former receiver for the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers. Grandpa was James Hunter, who played defensive back for the Detroit Lions.

This season, the newest Ivey on the scene distinguished himself among his peers in the Big Ten. His 624 points, 207 free throw attempts, and 441 field goal attempts all ranked third; his 17.3 points per game rated eighth; etc.

Here are some offense and defense highlights:

In 2021, Jaden averaged 12.3 points for Team USA at the FIBA U19 World Cup, where he played beside another lottery prize, Chet Holmgren (Gonzaga). Although I’ve listed Ivey’s achievements elsewhere, here they are again: 2020-21 Big Ten All-Freshman - 1st Team, 2021-22 All-Big Ten - 1st Team, 2021-22 Consensus All-America - 2nd Team, 2021-22 Wooden Award - Late Season, 2021-22 Wooden Award - Midseason, 2021-22 Wooden Award - National Ballot, 2021-22 Wooden Award - Preseason, and 2022 All-Big Ten Tournament.

The muscular Ivey cuts a practically perfect silhouette for the modern shooting guard, and his explosiveness has dropped jaws aplenty. He gets lots of Twitter love for good reason.

Ivey played lots of pick-and-roll in Purdue’s offense and averaged 1.38 points per finishing opportunity, good for the 88th percentile. If someone set a weak pick or failed to screen, no problem. Jaden just cranked to the next gear and scored with pure speed. When driving, he can change pace to send a defender stumbling, toss a feathery floater, or rise up to the cup like a nascent basketball god. This young man is fun to watch.

With his improved shooting this season, defenders had to play him more closely, which put them in perfect position for a juke and a blow-by. His springy-first step has bewildered a long procession of collegiate guards.

In the open court, his powerful legs launch him ahead of the pack so that he’s two or three strides ahead of the closest guy when the scoreboard registers his points. Imagine a taller, more muscular Ja Morant. You’ll start to understand why draft scouts are salivating.

Lots of upside? God, yes. From one season to the next, the dude raised his outside shooting percentage by ten whole points, and that doesn’t happen without concentrated effort in the gym. And he’s not old enough to go clubbing yet. Imagine what he’ll look like with some NBA seasoning on him, after a few years in a pro-level development system. Reserve his seat on an All-Star bench now, gamblers.

Who’s perfect? Nobody. A lack of consistency has been one complaint about Jaden. Despite his overall improvement from beyond the arc, he can still run hot and cold there. He shot a perfect 6-for-6 from the perimeter against Butler in December, but logged a gnarly 1-for-7 from downtown against Iowa in March. Last November, he shot 2-for-4 from deep, and 10-for-13 from the field against Indiana State for a season-high 27 points. Then he shot an unspectacular 3-for-10 from the field against the Illinois Fighting Illini in 42 minutes on the floor.

It’s noteworthy that whether he was cooking or chilling beyond the arc, he still got his points. Ivey finished with 20 in that aforementioned game against Iowa and went 9-for-18 from the floor. In that Illinois contest, with his shot not falling, he feasted from the charity stripe instead and logged an impressive 13-for-15.

Inconsistent? Maybe. He’s also a resourceful scorer who can adjust to challenging circumstances, and that’s a major asset in the NBA.

It’s fair to say that his decision-making was iffy at times, and his ball-handling didn’t always keep up with his blazing pace. His 94 turnovers ranked second in the conference. That’s gotta get cleaned up.

He wasn’t always an aggressive defender, especially given his size compared to his general competition. There’s tape of him playing very respectable on-ball defense, so the ability is there. He did look lost at times when playing off-ball. A few hundred practices with Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau would straighten him out.

“Obviously, you’ve gotta have guys that want to win,” says Ivey in the following clip. “It starts…in practice. I feel like, I just have that DNA to win.” Practice! That’s the trigger word to make Thibs wag his tail and chew towels.

The Knicks remain unsettled at point guard. Like Ivey, Immanuel Quickley is a shooter who can also play-make somewhat. Derrick Rose is due to return and remain in the second unit. Deuce McBride is my dark horse but has not convinced the brass that he’s ready for expanded minutes. Most likely, the front office either makes a run at Ivey or tries to sign a free agent like Jalen Brunson.

What would it take to move up in the Draft? Picks and players. One suggestion I heard was a swap of RJ Barrett and the 11th pick for the fourth. Surely Leon Rose & Co. won’t do that. They’d have to give up some players with talent, though, e.g., Quentin Grimes. I remain convinced that Grimes can be a lynchpin player, a real asset on offense and defense. It would hurt to lose him...but talent like Ivey’s does not come cheap.

If you can’t get enough of Ivey coverage, you’re in luck. Over at Pod Strickland, they discussed the prospect of trading up for Ivey, what it would cost, and if it makes sense.

And our friends at Knicks Film School devoted a whole podcast to an Ivey plan.

Thanks for reading. Peace til next time.