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Jaden Ivey’s speed and explosiveness makes him a can’t-miss prospect in the NBA Draft

Jaden Ivey is the best pure athlete at the top of the NBA Draft. Here’s why he’s the top guard in the class.

Jaden Ivey’s first taste of professional basketball came when he was still in the womb. His mother Niele Ivey found out she was pregnant in the middle of her rookie season with the WNBA’s Indiana Fever shortly after leading Notre Dame to the 2001 national championship. Ivey kept her pregnancy a secret from coaches until after the season, and quickly made national headlines for her ability to balance motherhood with a playing career in the nascent stages of the league.

Having a mother who was a top-20 WNBA draft pick is only one part of Ivey’s athletic makeup. His father is Javin Hunter, a former Notre Dame wide receiver who was selected in the sixth round of the 2002 NFL Draft. His grandfather is James Hunter, a standout defensive back with the Detroit Lions who was selected No. 10 overall in the 1976 NFL Draft.

Jaden Ivey has always had the bloodlines to be a star athlete, but he was still something of a late bloomer. When he committed to Purdue as a high school junior, Ivey was ranked outside of the top-200 nationally. He slowly worked his way up the rankings after transferring to La Lumiere to play a national schedule as a senior, and came to West Lafayette as the No. 87 overall prospect in a class headlined by Cade Cunningham, Evan Mobley, and Jalen Green.

Ivey suffered a foot injury at the start of his freshman season, but emerged as a stud by the end of the year, highlighted by a 26-point performance in Purdue’s NCAA tournament loss to North Texas. The NBA had interest in Ivey as a one-and-done, but he opted to return to the Boilermakers for his sophomore season. That proved to be one of the best choices he ever made.

Ivey’s vaunted “sophomore leap” was the realization of his breathtaking athleticism coming into full bloom. He dusted defenders with a lightning-quick first step and blazing open floor speed. He elevated above the rim for ferocious dunks off one foot, and contorted his body in the air for acrobatic layups. He also made major strides as a three-point shooter, developing impressive footwork on his step-back jumpers with touch out to the NBA arc.

No other player in this draft class produced more OMG moments than Ivey did with Purdue. As he enters the draft, Ivey has positioned himself as an elite athlete even when compared to a league full of them. While his skill set still needs some fine-tuning on both sides of the ball, Ivey simply has some talents that can’t be taught. This is what makes him the best guard in the 2022 NBA Draft.

Jaden Ivey has an athletic gear that few can match

At 6’4, 195 pounds with a reported 6’9 wingspan, Ivey is a combo guard who wins first and foremost by being faster and more explosiveness than anyone else on the floor.

Ivey plays with the sort of burst that can break any coverage. He has a rare ability to turn the corner on the perimeter and get a head of steam to attack the rim. He has long strides on his way to the basket, and the bounce to quickly rise off one foot to finish before the help can get there.

Ivey’s rim attacking should be even more deadly with NBA spacing. Purdue almost always had a traditional big man on the floor with Zach Edey and Trevion Williams entrenched as front court stars, and it occasionally mucked up Ivey’s driving lanes.

When Ivey plays in five-out lineups in the league, there won’t be many point of attack defenders with a prayer of staying in front of him. Again, watch how quickly Ivey gets to the hoop and rises off the floor for the flush.

Another easy way to utilize Ivey’s burst is to clear out one side of the floor for him. Poor Jordan Bohannon stood no chance against him on an island as Ivey gains several steps of separation from the moment he starts his drive. The help (in this case, Kris Murray) knows where they need to be, but can’t get there fast enough.

This is the equivalent of an NBA 2K player mashing the turbo button and bull rushing the paint. Even at the pro level, it’s going to be extremely difficult to stop when Ivey has this much space.

Ivey’s standstill burst might be his most unique gift. His first step has both a quickness and suddenness that is extremely difficult to defend, and should put NBA defenses into scramble mode regularly.

To get an easy dunk out of a dead stop like this should not be possible, but Ivey burns his primary defender and gets a nice screen from Edey on the back-end of his post-up. It leads to another highlight reel dunk.

Jaden Ivey will be a menace in transition

Ivey is going to be one of the fastest players in the league from the moment he’s drafted. His end-to-end speed rivals De’Aaron Fox, Tyrese Maxey, Ja Morant, and other turbo-charged guards.

In addition to being a burner in the open floor, Ivey also thrives because he can hit little in-and-out dribbles at top speed with the ability to change his shot angle in mid-air. He also has soft touch with his right hand. Ohio State had three defenders back in transition on this play, and there was still no stopping Ivey.

Ivey’s ability to contort his body in the air shows up all over the tape. He’s able to improvise when he has a defender or two in front of him to get off a clean look and lay it in. Ivey’s 46.9 percent free throw rate is a point in his favor, but he doesn’t need to hunt fouls to score. He’s excellent at avoiding the contact when he wants to and should only get better as a finisher as he develops his off-hand.

Ivey has a relentless mindset to attack when he has room in front of him. There are four defenders ahead of him when he gets the ball on this transition opportunity, but no one is stopping him once he turns on the jets.

Of course Ivey won’t be seeing Incarnate Word-level competition when he gets to the NBA, but this type of speed and power on the break can play at any level.

Jaden Ivey’s shooting ability made big strides as a sophomore

The big area for improvement heading into Ivey’s sophomore year was his three-point shot. He went 25-for-97 from behind the arc as a freshman, translating to a 25.8 percent mark from deep that wasn’t good enough for NBA scouts.

Ivey proved his three ball was going to be a strength as soon as his sophomore season started. He hit multiple threes in 17 of his first 23 games, including going 4-for-6 against Florida State and 6-of-6 against Butler. He ended his sophomore year 64-of-179 from three-point range, good for 35.8 percent from deep. That’s a 10 percentage point improvement from his first year in college.

Ivey looked particularly comfortable hoping into step-back threes. Given his elite first step going to the basket, this is essentially an unstoppable move if he can hit it consistently.

His space creation with the step-back is tied to that ridiculous straight line burst as a driver. Michigan defender Eli Brooks almost falls back to the free throw line on this fake before Ivey calmly gets into his step-back.

This type of footwork is not easy to master, but Ivey got increasingly skilled with it during his sophomore year.

If Ivey is ultimately going to project as a lead offensive initiator, he’s going to need to be able to punish defenses when they go under a screen. What’s exciting about Ivey’s shooting potential is he’s able to get space for his shot even without a screen like in the clip above.

The ability to play going backwards is a hallmark of so many great guards throughout the league. This is a pro-level step-back after getting a screen inside the arc. Instead of attacking Murray, Ivey jaunts into his step-back for the three:

For now, Ivey seems more comfortable shooting off the dribble than off the catch (more on that later). That’s not necessarily a bad thing for a player who will often be expected to play with the ball in his hands.

For a player still developing as a shooter, Ivey made a ton of clutch threes. Here are two examples of huge late game threes against Wisconsin and Ohio State:

Jaden Ivey has a great ability to recover on the defensive end

One of the big questions in Ivey’s draft profile is his defense. Purdue had one of the largest gaps between offensive and defensive efficiency in the country this past season, finishing with the No. 2 offense and No. 93 defense in DI, per KenPom. Ivey played a part in their struggles on that end by often showing poor technique on the ball and lapses of inattention off the ball.

There’s plenty of low hanging fruit for Ivey defensively, but he still showed the ability to make some game-changing plays on that end. One of his most projectable strengths is the ability to recover thanks to his ridiculous closing speed and plus length. On this play, Ivey gets a bit hung up on the screen against Michigan State, but closes the space between him and Max Christie in a moment’s notice to block the shot.

Ivey typically does a pretty good job of getting over screens. When he knows his matchup, he can be solid in ball denial by getting skinny around off-ball picks and using his lateral quickness to stick with his man.

This MSU play never got off the ground because Ivey refused to let Christie catch the ball.

Ivey is never out of a play thanks to his elite acceleration. He has the ability to make up the space between himself and the offensive player and still contest the shot. He finished with a 2.6 career block rate in nearly 1,700 minutes in college, an impressive number for a guard.

Ivey likely won’t be a plus defensively early in his career, but the one thing NBA teams should be able to bank on is his ability to turn defense into offense. He’s excellent at shooting the gap to grab a steal, and no one is going to catch him when he’s sprinting down the other end for a slam.

The best way to describe Ivey’s defense is as a baseball slugger who strikes out a lot but also hits a bunch of homers. Here’s a compilation of some of his best takeaways that quickly turn into two points the other way.

What are Jaden Ivey’s weaknesses?

If Ivey’s greatest strength is his ability to dust his defender at the point of attack, his biggest area of improvement is processing what happens next. After creating the initial separation, Ivey can have some issues at the second level of the defense for a variety of reasons: he can’t reliably drive or finish with his left hand, he’s prone to making incorrect passing reads, and he doesn’t yet have any semblance of a midrange game.

Developing his off-hand is going to be a necessary step. Most of the clips in this story have Ivey always getting back to his right. When defenses sit on his dominant hand, he can struggle to generate the same burst or find similar finishing craft with his left.

While it felt like Ivey made some progress with his left as the season went on, he’s going to have to keep getting better to reach his potential as a driver and rim finisher in the NBA. At times, it feels like Ivey’s top-end speed is a deterrent to his off-hand finishing because he’s simply coming at the basket with too much force:

Midrange scoring will also have to be a point of emphasis moving forward. Ivey went just 29-for-100 on non-rim two-pointers this season, per Bart Torvik. He doesn’t seem to have the footwork down for how to get into his midrange pull-up, leading to some ugly attempts. His numbers on runners were solid — he ranked in the 78th percentile on them, per Synergy Sports — but he only went into it on 9.2 percent of his halfcourt shot attempts.

Adam Spinella at Box And One did a wonderful job breaking down Ivey’s midrange struggles in this video:

Ivey played more shooting guard than point guard at Purdue. It’s fair to wonder if that’s been detrimental to his ability to read defenses. Ivey misses some open teammates in the halfcourt and generally struggles to manipulate the defense to get his teammates scoring opportunities. While he has moments as a playmaker mostly because he’s so good at blowing past his initial defender, his 19.2 assist rate as a sophomore (which ranked No. 442 in DI) is a red flag in comparisons to a player like Morant — who led the country with a 51.9 percent assist rate in 2019.

Right now, Ivey still has too many possessions that look like this:

Ivey had 110 assists to 94 turnovers this past season. He had a tendency to lose control the ball in traffic when the defense overplayed his right hand, and often got into trouble with jump passes where he didn’t appear to have any real plan.

There are some concerns about Ivey’s catch-and-shoot jumper as well. He feels more comfortable getting into his step-back off the dribble than he does spacing the floor for his teammates. He ranked in the 44th percentile overall as a spot-up shooter as a sophomore. There isn’t one right way to shoot a basketball, but Ivey’s shot feels like it could be improved by getting his legs into it more. His release will need to be sped up a bit, too. Ivey will have to prove he can punish defenses when they go under screens on him at the next level. These two clips come via The Scouting Report:

Becoming more of a threat with his left feels like it would answer several problems for Ivey. For now, it remains a work in progress.

Jaden Ivey stats and scouting report

Ivey is the best guard in this class because of his ability to blow by defenders in the half court and run past them in the open floor to put significant pressure on the rim. He has great body control and incredible leaping ability around the basket and has become a skilled finisher with his right hand. He’s going to get a lot of easy buckets in transition, and showed impressive improvement as a pull-up three-point shooter this season.

The biggest question with Ivey’s translation to the league is if he can be a primary initiator or if he’s more suited for a secondary role. He’ll need to learn to read defenses better and improve his midrange game if he’s going to spend most of his time on the ball. As a secondary option, Ivey’s should be outstanding attacking defenses as soon as he catches the ball, but he’ll need to show he can consistently space the floor by hitting spot-up threes.

Here are Ivey’s numbers at Purdue:

Jaden Ivey college stats

Year Points per 40 2-point percentage 3-point percentage 3-point rate Free throw percentage Free throw rate Assist rate Turnover rate Steal rate Block rate True shooting Usage
Year Points per 40 2-point percentage 3-point percentage 3-point rate Free throw percentage Free throw rate Assist rate Turnover rate Steal rate Block rate True shooting Usage
Sophomore 22 53.1 35.8 40.6 74.4 46.7 19.2 14.8 1.7 2 57.9 28.7
Freshman 18.4 50.8 25.8 43.5 72.6 32.7 16.4 10.7 1.8 3.8 49.7 26.8

Where does Jaden Ivey rank in the 2022 NBA Draft?

Ivey is the top guard and No. 3 overall player in this draft class according to our board. Only Duke forward Paolo Banchero and Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren are ranked ahead of him. Read our full scouting reports on Banchero and Holmgren here. We also slightly prefer Ivey to Auburn forward Jabari Smith Jr., but all four are considered Tier 1 prospects for us.

Jaden Ivey best fits: 4 spots for Purdue guard

Here are four fits we’d love for Ivey. While only two of these teams realistically have a chance to draft him, it’s always possible the Kings trade out of No. 4 overall to allow a team to go up and get him.

  • Indiana Pacers: This would be our top fit for Ivey even beyond his local roots as a South Bend native. The Pacers already have a guard in Tyrese Haliburton who could split playmaking duties and space the floor around Ivey’s drives. Chris Duarte can also space the floor on the wing, and Myles Turner is a stretch five in the middle. Indiana needs someone who can consistently pressure the rim and eventually develop into a primary option. Ivey feels like an ideal fit. But will he be there when the Pacers come on the clock at No. 6?
  • Detroit Pistons: If the Kings pass on Ivey at No. 4, he’ll be the best player on the board for the Pistons with the fifth overall pick. We love the fit next to Cade Cunningham. Cunningham is a primary initiator who can make every read in the pick-and-roll and can also space the floor as a spot-up shooter. He just isn’t known for his speed. Ivey can provide a necessary injection of explosiveness next to Cunningham’s more deliberate playmaking style, and boost the Pistons in transition. Cunningham’s shooting should provide plenty of space for Ivey’s drives, and he can also take the tougher defensive assignment. Detroit would have two excellent young guards to build around if this is the pick.
  • Washington Wizards: The Wizards would need to move up from No. 10 to grab Ivey, but he’d be a great fit there. Washington needs another ball handler next to Bradley Beal, and Ivey’s rim pressure would make for an ideal pairing with Beal’s shooting. The Wizards also already have the defensive infrastructure to support Ivey on that end with plenty of big wings on the roster. Ivey could be the Wizards’ next star in the post-Beal era.
  • New York Knicks: The Knicks would have to move up from No. 11 for Ivey, but it would be so much fun to watch his electric athleticism in Madison Square Garden. New York would love to add another guard who can get deep into the paint and get easy points in transition. If anyone can get him to be a plus on defense early in his career, it’s Tom Thibodeau. Ivey would also simply give the Knicks the type of starpower the franchise desperately needs.

NBA mock draft: Where will Jaden Ivey go?

Check out our most recent NBA mock draft, which was published immediately after the lottery. It features scouting reports on every projected first round pick. Since plenty has changed since then, we will give some notes to provide a more accurate look at what might happen on draft night after the table. We’ll have another mock after the NBA Finals.

NBA mock draft 2022: Post-lottery edition

Pick Team Player From Position Age
Pick Team Player From Position Age
1 Orlando Magic Paolo Banchero Duke Forward Freshman
2 Oklahoma City Thunder Chet Holmgren Gonzaga Forward/Big Freshman
3 Houston Rockets Jabari Smith Jr. Auburn Forward/Big Freshman
4 Sacramento Kings Jaden Ivey Purdue Guard Sophomore
5 Detroit Pistons AJ Griffin Duke Wing Freshman
6 Indiana Pacers Shaedon Sharpe Kentucky Guard Freshman
7 Portland Trail Blazers Jalen Duren Memphis Center Freshman
8 New Orleans Pelicans Keegan Murray Iowa Forward Sophomore
9 San Antonio Spurs Bennedict Mathurin Arizona Guard Sophomore
10 Washington Wizards Johnny Davis Wisconsin Guard Sophomore
11 New York Knicks Dyson Daniels G League Wing Born 2003
12 Oklahoma City Thunder Jeremy Sochan Baylor Forward Freshman
13 Charlotte Hornets Tari Eason LSU Forward Sophomore
14 Cleveland Cavaliers Malaki Branham Ohio State Guard Freshman
15 Charlotte Hornets Mark Williams Duke Center Freshman
16 Atlanta Hawks Tyty Washington Kentucky Guard Freshman
17 Houston Rockets Ousmane Dieng France Forward Born 2003
18 Chicago Bulls Patrick Baldwin Milwaukee Forward Freshman
19 Minnesota Timberwolves Kendall Brown Baylor Guard Freshman
20 San Antonio Spurs Nikola Jovic Serbia Forward Born 2003
21 Denver Nuggets Ochai Agbaji Kansas Wing Senior
22 Memphis Grizzlies Leonard Miller Canada Forward Born 2003
23 Brooklyn Nets (via 76ers) MarJon Beauchamp G League Wing Fresbhman
24 Milwaukee Bucks EJ Liddell Ohio State Forward Junior
25 San Antonio Spurs (via Celtics) Kennedy Chandler Tennessee Guard Freshman
26 Dallas Mavericks Jaden Hardy G League Guard Born 2002
27 Miami Heat Blake Wesley Notre Dame Guard Fresbhman
28 Golden State Warriors Bryce McGowens Nebraska Guard Freshman
29 Memphis Grizzlies Jake LaRavia Wake Forest Forward Junior
30 Oklahoma City Thunder (via Suns) Jalen Williams Santa Clara Guard Junior
  • The Magic are expected to take Jabari Smith Jr. at No. 1.
  • The Thunder are expected to take Chet Holmgren at No. 2. It’s worth noting that the Thunder are notoriously tight-lipped, so it’s hard to project what they will actually do on draft night.
  • Paolo Banchero would likely be the pick for the Houston Rockets at No. 3, but Ivey could also get consideration.
  • The Kings hold the keys to the draft at No. 4. The most likely candidates are Ivey, Iowa’s Keegan Murray, Arizona’s Bennedict Mathurin, Duke’s AJ Griffin, and Kentucky’s Shaedon Sharpe.
  • The Pistons have the fifth pick and would likely also choose between Ivey, Murray, Mathurin, Sharpe, and potentially Memphis’ Jalen Duren.
  • Will Ivey make it to the Pacers at No. 6? He’d be an obvious pick if he’s still on the board.

The 2022 NBA Draft will be held on June 23 from Brooklyn. We’ll have another mock draft coming once the NBA Finals conclude.