The first time I came across Jalen Duren was in my failed journey to achieve the “Greatest of All Time” ranking in NBA 2K. Most gamers seem drawn to “My Player” mode, but I’ve always been intrigued by the traditional style of “play now online.” The goal is to climb the ladder of 9 tiers starting at freshmen league and ending with Greatest of All Time.
As you progress upward, you can be kicked back down if you lose three in a row. Hall of Fame is the tier before GOAT status and I often found myself on the cusp of being kicked, but after a strong run of games (and a couple of gifts from my opponents’ internet lagging), I could smell GOAT ranking.
I had been on a steady run with the underrated Knicks using Mitchell Robinson’s shot-blocking prowess, Randle’s versatility, RJ’s explosiveness, and Brunson’s leadership. Then I came across the Detroit Pistons.
Jalen Duren has all the tools to be a star for the Detroit Pistons
Jalen Duren was a name I was familiar with from summer league and despite some flashes of brilliance, he was only 18. I was more worried about Cade Cunningham, Jaden Ivey and Marvin Bagley. With Isaiah Stewart behind Bagley and Noel off the bench, I pegged Duren as a DNP. Boy was I wrong.
The former AAC Freshman of the Year was a gamer’s nightmare. With a combination of ferocious offensive rebounding and an explosive standing dunk I was dismantled by Duren. I play with headphones and at one point I yelled into the mic, “Who is this guy?” as my opponent snickered. He was Jalen Duren, a player who has the capability to be a game-changing talent for the growing Pistons franchise.
2k woes aside, the Marvin Bagley experiment hasn’t worked for the Pistons and with his recent injury we have seen the emergence of Duren. Duren’s most impressive attribute has been his dominance on the glass leading all rookies in rebounds snatched per game. He’s also a menace on the offensive boards averaging 3.4 per game ranking him number 5 among all centers. In his ten games as a starter, NBC Sports Edge even noted “Duren has been generational on the glass early in his career.”
Some of his more eye-popping lines included 7 points 19 boards (6 offensive) 3 blocks, and 2 dimes. The following night he dropped 15 points, 14 boards (6 offensive), a block, and a dime. He also had games where he pulled down 11, 13, 12, and 18 boards.
Jalen Duren still has a ways to go before becoming a star for the Pistons
One downside is Duren’s scoring hasn’t been great. He’s been limited to mainly hustle points, alley-oops, and easy setups. He’s also underperformed on defense averaging half a block and steal since joining the starting lineup. However, he has shown flashes of being a good passer.
Presumably, the blocks will come and the key will be Duren’s development of a post-up game; add a jump shot and he could be virtually flawless.
Overall, if there’s anything the NBA has taught us it’s that flashy, explosive athleticism fades. Nikola Jokic is a great example as a former 2nd round pick who isn’t explosive, but could be a three-time MVP. Former number one pick Blake Griffin has become an afterthought while Stephen Curry chosen 6 picks later in the 2009 NBA Draft continues to shine.
While Duren’s athleticism is exciting for now he feels more like a young DeAndre Jordan.
Could he blossom into something more? The raw talent is certainly there and time is on the young center’s side. Either way, it seems Jaden, Cade, and Duren could be a scary, big three very soon.