Grand Rapids Drive Season Preview.
So the Pistons have a D-League affiliate in Grand Rapids Michigan called the Grand Rapids Drive. (just in case you didn't know) Their season starts Saturday at 7 o clock. For this preview I'm just going to do a quick look over at the players on the roster, and then which ones to watch for as potentially actually doing something on an NBA roster. And by quick look over I mean looking them up on Bball reference/youtube/wikipedia and then pretending to be an expert on them.
Kelsey Barlow: A second year pro who played in GR last year. In college he played for Purdue, and was actually really good for them, and by his junior year he was one of the better players on their roster. But he was then dissmissed from the team for poor conduct. (some stuff to do with a bar) and then transferred to Illinois-Chicago where he had to sit out a year, and then played a 5th year there, and was good. Last year with the Drive he was a pretty solid role player. He is capable of scoring in a variety of ways and can handle the ball. So should you care about him? A little bit, he is not very likely to make an NBA roster any time soon, but he a lot of the undrafted types who end up finding some success are guys like him, types who are good players but then fall for some sort of off court issue. And as far as I know he did not have any issues last year. And while he was not asked to join the Pistons for camp, he was on the summer league roster. And the fact that he is still in GR is telling in a good and bad way. On one hand, he did nothing with the Drive last year to gain much interest with an NBA team. But on the other hand, there was obviously something seen there because after summer league they took him back again.
Ryan Boatright: Played 4 years at UCONN and by his senior year was really good averaging better than 17ppg. Came to the Drive after going undrafted in the NBA draft. He was signed to the Brooklyn Nets and played for them in summer league, and even made the preseason roster and played a little bit. But was ultimately cut by the Nets. The Pistons signed and then waived him so that they could put him on the Drive. Should you care? Yes. He had enough interest to make an NBA camp, and once he was cut the Pistons wanted him enough that they signed him to guarantee he played with the Drive. If he does make it up to the Pistons it would almost certainly not be this year because there are already too many point guards right now. However, there is a very good possibility that both Jennings and Blake will be gone next year. In which case Boatright would likely get a shot at making the roster, or even competing with Dinwiddie for the backup job. And even if Jennings stays, if Dinwiddie does not make good improvements this year Boatright might end up competing for 3rd guard. So yeah, you should care about him a little bit.
Lorenzo Brown: Played college ball at NC State. And was a good player for them. Even if he is somewhat unique as a guard who is not that good a shooter. Should you care? Yes. Even though he is entering his 3rd year as a pro, he tore it up for GR last year, when he was signed by the Timberwolves, and he actually played a little bit for them even. He was not very good, but it is something to hang his hat on that he played real minutes on an NBA team. He also is a shooting guard, which the Pistons are one more injury away from being in a legit panic to fill minutes.
Devin Ebanks: Played 2 years at West Virginia and played a lot in his time there. He played for the Lakers for 3 years as a bench warmer. Before failing to make a team last year and spending the whole year in the D-League. Although he was really good last year in the D-League, but still did not make an NBA team this year. Should you care? A little bit. He has been in the NBA, and is another guy that could potentially go up if KCP were to get hurt. But it is not a good sign when a guy is a bench player for 3 years and then falls out of the league. And he is 26, so he does not have a ton of upside left for him. If he does not catch on with a team this year he seems like the type of guy who might try his luck overseas after this year. But maybe not. If an injury came to KCP SVG might opt for him since he has actually been on an NBA roster before. At the very least he figures to be fun to watch in GR because he averaged 23ppg last year.
Xavier Ford: Played 4 years at Buffalo in college. And went undrafted this past summer. He was not a particular standout with Buffalo, but did play quite a bit for a pretty good team. He is a big strong athlete type, although in his despite literally not shooting a 3 in his first 3 years. He suddenly shot almost two a game his senior year and hit them at a decent rate. Should you care? Probably not too much. I obviously had never heard of him before looking him up for this piece. But there is not a lot of evidence to be found that he has a certain use at the NBA level. The best thing he could have happen would be if he made another improvement shooting and was really good from outside. But even then, he is 6'9. In the NBA today almost everyone who is shorter than 6'10 can shoot. The main reason that he doesn't figure to have an impact with the Pistons is that they have plenty of guys who can give minutes at PF. And a lot of them are here for the next several years at least.
Stefhon Hannah: A real wanderer. He has been a pro since 2008, but has never made an NBA roster. He played overseas a couple times but has spent most of his time in the D-League. He played a few games for the Drive last year. Should you care? No. He has never made an NBA roster and he is 30. And he has not made any sort of career overseas. He is probably here mostly so that there mostly as a vet guy to keep the young bloods from doing stupid things.
Kammeon Holsey: Played 4 years at Georgia Tech, and played for the Drive last year. He did not do a ton at GT or with the Drive. But it is worth something that the Drive brought him back. He is a "dirty work player" and can't really shoot. Should you care? No. Most of the positive things he does are in effort. And he is pretty big and strong, but if he was likely to make a roster he would have. Unless he learns to shoot, he is probably not going to any NBA team any time soon. Although if he did learn to shoot he might have a chance.
Ashton Pitts: May or may not actually exist. I could find no stats anywhere. And found a couple highlights of him playing for a college called Southern Poly-Tech State university. He is 6-8 and apparently has some skills. But I could find damn near nothing about him. So yeah. I don't know if you should care. Probably not.
Isreal Romero: Even less than Pitts. He is from Cuba though so at least it makes sense that he might not exist.
Henry Sims: Has been a pro since 2012. And played his college ball at Georgetown. He was on the Cavs and then traded to the Sixers. And he actually did play a bit for them last year. He is a classic big dude, but has a decent spot up jumper. Should you care? Probably not. The Pistons are all set at center the next few years. Although he could possibly take the Joel Anthony spot in a year or two I suppose. Also, he appears to be the only real center on this team.
Adonis Thomas: Played at Memphis for two years, and was ok there. He played in the D-League the past two years and was really good, including 17ppg for the Drive last year. He can shoot and is really strong too. Should you care? Yes. Him and Boatright are the two main guys to watch from this roster. Thomas was invited to camp but was hurt and never got a real chance. But since the guy who beat him out, Reggie Bullock, shit the bed in his chance this year. If Bullock never ends up being any good this year/injury strikes. Thomas is a good bet to get signed with the Pistons as long as he looks good with the Drive. If not this year next year. I like this guy a lot and think he will be on an NBA team next year of some sort.
Sam Thompson: Played 4 years at Ohio State. Do it all type who might be a good shooter but does not do a lot of rebounding. He is a good athlete though. He is a rookie this year: Should you care? Maybe a little. He has some potential and he spent the preseason in Charlotte so he actually got a look from someone. But I don't see SVG having much desire to bring up a rookie who might not be able to shoot at all. But perhaps in a few years?
Why should you care about the Drive at all?
They might produce some players for the Pistons is the main reason. I think there is a good chance that both Boatright and Thomas are on the Pistons next year. Also there is a good chance that Hilliard/Dinwiddie spend some time here this year. Hilliard because he is a rook who still has not played this year. And once Jennings comes back Dinwiddie might be the 4th PG on the roster, which would push him so far out of the rotation that he would be wasting a seat. The main reason though is because one of the things that will happen with the next CBA is turning the D-league into an actual honest to god minor league. Which is why most teams have bought a D-League team the past couple years. If the Drive can produce a couple decent players and get a reputation as a good D-League spot then it becomes more attractive for undrafted free agents. There have been a few guys to come out of the D-League who have been real players. And as it becomes more incorporated as a true minor league, there will be more.
What do you think? Think I'm stupid? Let me Know! And if you have any more info on any of these players please give it! Most of them I had to look up and while I did what I could, it is just scrapping the surface. Also shoutout to Real GM. That site was a godsend for this post.