Not far away but at a safe distance from turmoil of our Pistons’ disastrous start of the season, their affiliate, the Grand Rapids Drive, are enjoying pretty good year. After going 1-1 in their first week (see here), the Drive won two of three games in their second week. The team is well coached and executes very well the offensive and defensive schemes we know from the Pistons (though the latter plays them so awkwardly this season that you may sometimes wonder who learns from whom). Coach Donnie Tyndall is living and breathing games (and he does it to the point that he’s willing to take charges even from his own players), and this apparently finds resonance in his young squad. It seems that he can get the best out of each of them and make a winning team out of it. We can see great chemistry among players (exemplified for instance by this ball movement) and the Drive’s "big three" of Jordan Bone, Sekou Doumbouya and Louis King are playing as if they were teammates for a long time.
The play of the "big three" was the highlight of the second week of Grand Rapids season. We’ll discuss them separately but on the clips you’ll see how much their individual plays are interconnected. The highlight of highlight was for me Louis, so I’ll start with him.
It appears that the Oregon product took to heart Dunking Darvin’s remarks about his first week inefficiency, and in second week he posted 23PPG (to go with 8,3 RPG) on 55,5 FG% with 35,7 3P%. His drives are deadly. He can get a bucket with them at will. As you can see, he can make them in transition and in half court; off of screens, pin downs, pick and rolls, attacking closeouts or isos; with various combinations of crossovers and/or hesitation dribbles. In spite of his thin frame, he can score through contact and gets some and ones. He’s still also very good at moving without the ball and can score on a pull up and catch and shoot jumpers, though he didn’t use them much in discussed week. Since in the first week he already presented himself as a scorer but had only 3 FT in two games, I wondered if he could get to the line more often. I also wondered if he can make more assists. Before I could even express this questions, he already delivered: in three last week’s games he went to the charity stripe 11 times and in his last game he had four assists (and he really can make passes).
But that’s not all of the good news on Louis. Last week I posted clips from his first two games showing that he is very promising wing and perimeter defender (here’s some stuff on that matter from discussed next three games). I was happy with that. But Louis wasn’t. So now he also added some rim protection as help-side defender to his defensive arsenal.
To summarize, so far Louis King is making strides in his development in seven-league boots. He more and more looks like versatile two-way player that you’d like to have on your team. So what next for him? In my opinion, first of all, he needs to uphold his efficiency from last week for a prolonged period of time. If he does, opponents will probably double-team him. Thus, he’ll have to show that he can deal with it. This means he’ll need to relay more on his passing abilities. And this is another thing to watch in his next games. Oh, did I say "uphold his efficiency from last week"? Weeell yes, but we need him to shoot the three ball better. So this is the third thing to watch in his next games. (Unfortunately, Louis twisted his ankle a little in the last game we’re discussing and it looks like he’ll get some rest.)
Speaking about wing prospects with good long ball, how about this young fella. Sekou had 38,4 3P% last week. He shoots threes in a variety of ways. Last week we saw some pull up threes. Here we can see him knocking them down off catch and shoot, pick and pop or off the screen in ATO. The last one on the clip is very encouraging: it seems that he shoots it over – I mean Kevin Durant-like over – the defender. I’m sure we all know what kind of weapon is a wing able to shoot over defenders.
Sekou is very efficient in general. In three last week’s games he averaged 17,7 PPG on 56,4 FG%. He looks very comfortable in Pistons/Drive schemes and contributes to their execution in many ways. Here we see him in drives initiated by attacking closeouts or by DHOs, which he can finish at the rim with either hand or kick out. Also in transition (and we know from last week clips that he can bring the ball in transition with ease) he is able to finish or make the right pass. Last week he also contributed more as a cutter. All this doesn’t mean that Sekou couldn’t find an opportunity to score from the post, showing the ability to play through contact, good positioning and nice footwork.
In his second week, Sekou play was still a little blurred by his lack of urgency and focus as well as avoidance of using his physicality (don’t spin away from the basket, Sekou; go into the teeth of the defense!). I’d also like to see him initiate the offense in half court more and work more on the glasses which he can.
Turning now to last but not least of the "big three", Jordan averaged 20,7 PPG last week on 55,8 FG% with 42,1 3P%. After playing behind two dominant wings at Tennessee, our second round pick turns out to be excellent floor general. He averaged 10,3 APG. He can hit his man with a pass in P&Rs, in drive and dishes and drive and kicks or he can find him on perimeter while dribbling. Just as he said while doing his pre-draft workout for the Pistons, the space in the NBA (that is NBA G-League for now) allows his athleticism to excel. With his acceleration and agility, he’s another Grand Rapids’ player who can score on drives at will. He’s also a prolific jump shooter.
Last week Jordan also showed encouraging signs as a perimeter defender, and the ability to fight for long d-boards which bothers the big club for some time. With them, he enriched his defensive repertoire, that already includes the ability to provide good on and off the ball defense. But the defense is, to some extent, an Achilles’ heel for him. I don’t speak about obvious mistakes such as these, which can be easily fixed with a little more practice. What I mean is this. For now, Jordan is a liability on switches. If his future is backup PG then this isn’t such a big deal. But we all expect Pistons player from Tennessee not named Allan Houston to pursue higher goals. And in that case he needs to address this defensive woe. He have enough physical tools to be successful at that.
Another thing he needs to work on are turnovers. He’s averaging 4 TOs per game. Obviously, he need to cut this number down.
However, the Grand Rapids Drive doesn’t consist only of young Pistons’ prospects. It also contains players who can draw attention of the big club in the future. Thus here, for instance, we can see Donta Hall again showing he can do some of the things we expect from our bigs (and we’ve already seen some of others in above clips). And here’s fans favorite, double-edged Sword showing on both ends of the floor some stuff that can always find a place in any big club.