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Grand Rapids Drive roster taking shape for 2017-18

With the NBA G League draft just six days away, we take a look at how the Grand Rapids Drive roster is shaping up so far. Whether through the draft, the available player pool, two-way contracts, NBA affiliate players or the local tryouts, your Drive team will look a bit different from last season.

It all starts with the guy on the sidelines. Rex Walters is gone, Robert Werdann is in.

Detroit Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy liked the way Walters worked with Drive players so much, he hired him as an assistant to coach up the young guys (Luke Kennard, Langston Galloway) on the perimeter.

Rob Werdann coachWerdann arrives after serving as a pro scout for the Pistons since 2014. His previous coaching stints include assistant stints in the CBA, NBADL (Columbus RiverDragons) and NBA (Hornets, Warriors, Bobcats) and as the head coach of the Guaynabo Mets in Puerto Rico.

On the court, the Drive are blessed because of the new two-way contracts that were put in place by the NBA. The two-way deals allow teams to sign up to two players, who will spend the majority of their rookie season in the G League, but as much as 45 days in the NBA, as well.

The Pistons signed two players this way, Dwight Buycks and Luis Montero.

Buycks is a 6-foot-3, 190-pound guard who spent last season with Fujian of the Chinese Basketball League. The 28-year-old played for the Dallas Mavericks in the Orlando summer league, where the Pistons coaching staff got a good look at him in action.

In 20 career NBA games with the Toronto Raptors and Los Angeles Lakers, Buycks averaged 4.8 points, 1.8 rebounds and 1.2 assists. His shooting numbers were 37.5% FG, 42.9% 3P% and 89.5 FT%.

Luis Montero
Luis Montero (Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY)

Montero, a 6-foot-7 wingman, is expected to be a 3-and-D guy for the Drive, stretching the opposing defense. Montero spent time with the Sacramento Kings in the Las Vegas summer league and has experience in the NBA, playing 22 games with the Portland Trail Blazers in 2015-16. Last season, Montero averaged 8.8 points per game playing for the Kings’ G League affiliate, Reno Bighorns.

Two affiliate players the Drive should have on the roster include Landry Nnoko (at right)and Derek Willis.

The NBA’s “affiliate player rule” allows them to retain up to four of the players that they waive. Players designated by an NBA team as affiliate players are automatically allocated to that team’s NBA G League affiliate if they choose to sign an NBA G League contract.

Landry Nnoko
(photo: @ClemsonMBB)

The 6-foot-10 forward/center Nnoko played with Pistons during summer league in Orlando and signed a partially guaranteed minimum-scale contract before the NBA preseason. After averaging 8.1 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2.3 blocks in college at Clemson, Nnoko spent last season with Consultinvest VL Pesaro of the Italian Lega A, averaging 6.4 points per game. He went undrafted in 2016.

Willis is one of the “Calipari Boys”, a four-year player from the University of Kentucky. The 6-foot-9, 230-pound power forward signed a one-year deal with the Pistons, which was thought by many to lead to this affiliate player designation.

Derek Willis Kentucky
Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Another guy that can spread the floor for the Drive, this past year during his senior season, Willis played in 38 games, averaging 7.0 points and 5.4 rebounds. He ranks 12th in UK history with a 39.9% from 3-point range.

Drive Mad Ants 3-24-17
(photo: @JGPhotoFW on twitter;

Chris Anderson, who made the Drive’s roster last season after winning an invite to training camp through their open tryout sessions, should be back in a Drive uniform for 2017-18. The 6-foot-6, 220-pound forward, who played collegiately at Louisiana Tech averaged 17.1 minutes on the court for Grand Rapids last season in 39 games.

Zeke Upshaw has signed an NBA G League contract and will be returning to the Grand Rapids Drive for the 2017-18 season, according to a league source.

Zeke Upshaw

The 26-year-old Upshaw played in 34 games with the Drive during the 2016-17 season, averaging 6.5 points per contest in 21.7 minutes played. The 6-foot-6, 225-pound forward from Hofstra University also pulled down 3.0 rebounds and dished out 1.9 assists per game. Upshot’s shooting splits (FG/3P/FT) were 36/38/67 for the year.

Buckets will return to the Drive for a fourth-season.

Buckets with Luck Unit & E.F. Hutton

Whether he’s on the floor, in the stands, stealing your seat, on his skateboard or showing off his brand-new t-shirt cannon, the DeltaPlex is sure to be rocking and rolling with the Drive’s #1 ambassador.




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