Jaden Ivey: A Questionably-Fitting, High-Upside Pick for Spurs

Jaden Ivey
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San Antonio Spurs
Jaden Ivey, Brock Cunningham / Stacy Revere/GettyImages

Jaden Ivey could be the Spurs' best partner for Dejounte Murray

While I don't necessarily think the Russell Westbrook and Ja Morant comparisons are fair to Ivey, there are certainly valid reasons as to why he's getting them. Since the beginning of the regular season, he's proven himself to be the most exhilarating guard prospect in college basketball and most recently led his team to the Sweet 16 after defeating 6-seeded Texas.

If there's any single area of Ivey's game where the Morant/Westbrook comparisons have some merit, it's his athleticism. Ivey doesn't quite have the bouncy vertical athleticism of Morant or even players like Bennedict Mathurin or Lonnie Walker IV, but his twitch athleticism and acceleration are borderline superhuman.

When going downhill in transition, and even when attacking closeouts in halfcourt sets, he can reach another gear that is all but unique to him and very rare to come by. His speed in just about any situation is totally unparalleled and will likely even be too much for many NBA athletes on defense.

While these are things that are normally much more noticed and generally bode well for a player's offensive game, what I've come to really appreciate about his athleticism is that he knows how to leverage it on defense.

While his transition defense, including his chase-down block against Texas, is one of his more obvious examples of that, I think that athleticism will be more practical and effective while defending the ball-handler in the halfcourt. He shows the necessary fundamentals, lateral quickness, and hip mobility to be a very effective on-ball defender against other athletic guards that are normally matchup nightmares for most teams.

Analysts' biggest concern about Ivey coming into his sophomore season was his 3-point shooting, as he only hit 26% of them in his freshman season. This year, he's hit over 36% of them on a higher volume of shots. While such a drastic difference is something I'm normally a bit more skeptical about, as I was with Davion Mitchell's shooting last season, his decent free-throw shooting numbers and shooting stats from high school make the improvement far more believable.

While his efficacy in the pick-and-roll doesn't have me convinced he can be a lead guard immediately upon entry into the league, by playing next to an established point guard like Dejounte Murray, he wouldn't need to be one. Ivey would have the opportunity to continue developing his passing as a secondary ball-handler, focus on creating scoring opportunities for himself away from the ball, and pay more attention to his defense early on in his career.

So how would the Spurs directly benefit from Ivey's skills?