RyanKrugerGRDrive
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New faces lead Grand Rapids Drive to 5 wins in 6 games

The Grand Rapids Drive may have leveled out the roller coaster ride that is their 2017-18 season.

The Drive and Detroit Pistons officially announced Ryan Kruger would ditch the interim tag on December 7th, taking on the head coaching duties for the remainder of the season from Robert Werdann, who returned to his position as a pro scout for the Pistons due to personal reasons.

Grand Rapids struggled to find their identity through the first two months of the season. After starting off with a franchise-record  four straight wins to open the schedule, the Drive lost the next eight before winning two out of three just before the coaching change.

Over the last six games, though, the team has taken off. Since Kruger took the job full-time the Drive are 5-1, including wins in their last four games.

Landry Nnoko has been key to the Drive’s success. He’s averaged 11.7 rebounds over the last six games, including four straight double-doubles to start the run. His 19.0 points per game is a big deal as the Drive have played without three of their regulars during the streak and welcomed in some newcomers to the floor.

Derek Willis, averaging 14.4 points and 5.7 rebounds, has been out for the last five games. Luis Montero, 14.2 points and 7.1 rebounds,  has been out for the last four.

Former NBA player K.J. McDaniels and Boston Celtics draftee Marcus Thornton joined the Drive on December 13th from the available player pool. McDaniels scored 26, 29 and 24 right out of the gate. He’s averaging 21.8 points and 7.5 rebounds so far. McDaniels also provides the Drive a with late-game go-to scorer. Thornton has played in two games and scored 11.0 ppg.

Marcus Simmons has returned to the Drive to average 8.8 points and 3.4 rebounds over the last six games.

Another missing piece, Dwight Buycks, hasn’t played since Kruger took over. It seems odd that Buycks, leading GR with 22.1 points per game and taking 19 shots per night, would fall out of favor in the lineup.

But both Buycks and Montero signed 2-way contracts with the Pistons and Willis signed as an affiliate player with Detroit. Playing time decisions may be coming from the offices in Detroit.

Without Buycks on the floor, the team has turned to “Speedy” Kenneth Smith and Bronson Koenig in the backcourt.

Smith entered the starting lineup and took control of the offense. He’s averaging 11.7 points over the last six games, but his 9.0 assists per contest have opened up the offense for Grand Rapids. The team has turned a nearly 1:1 assist-to-turnover ratio into something closer to 3:2. Grand Rapids is +9.5 points per game with Smith on the floor.

Koenig has averaged 11.3 points while playing off the ball. He’s looked more like the player he was at the University of Wisconsin lately.

Jamel Morris has averaged 17.7 points per game off the bench during the run. Morris is shooting 48.8% from the field, 47.2% from behind the three-point line.

With the 5-1 run the Drive find themselves just 1.5 games out of first place in the Central Division of the Eastern Conference behind Wisconsin (12-8) and Fort Wayne (11-8).

Now 7-4 on their home court at the DeltaPlex, the Drive host the Maine Red Claws on Thursday night the the second time in six days. GR defeated Maine on December 22, 113-95, behind 51 combined points from Morris and Nnoko.

Pick Your Favorite for Beer of the Year!

  • Wheezin' The Juice - Grand Armory (May) (21%, 11 Votes)
  • M-43 - Old Nation (July) (19%, 10 Votes)
  • Cascading Into Darkness - City Built (June) (19%, 10 Votes)
  • KBS - Founders (March) (10%, 5 Votes)
  • Dirty Dank Juice - Odd Side Ales (August) (10%, 5 Votes)
  • Blue Sunday - New Holland (February) (8%, 4 Votes)
  • Hopslam - Bell's (January) (6%, 3 Votes)
  • Lift Bridge Brown - Keweenaw (September) (4%, 2 Votes)
  • Hopsun - B.O.B. (April) (2%, 1 Votes)
  • 4 Elf - Dark Horse (December) (2%, 1 Votes)
  • Oktoberfest - Pigeon Hill (October) (0%, 0 Votes)
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