The last days of the year 2019 went quite good for Pistons’ affiliate from Grand Rapids. In Las Vegas, the team beat G-League leaders, Josh Jackson’s Memphis Hustle, on their way to the NBA G-League Winter Showcase Championship Game. Then they lost the Championship Game in overtime there to the second best team in the League, Salt Lake City Stars. Finally, they won in Fort Wayne with division rivals, the Mad Ants. If you take under the consideration that they played those games without Sekou, who was with the big club, and they played the last game also without Donta, Jordan (both injured) and Louis, who we can see making first, not bad, steps in the big league, it’s quite impressive result.
The Vegas games of the Winter Showcase revealed some new quality of Jordan. We’ve already learned that he’s a very good floor general and that he can get buckets efficiently. But so far it looked like he was more comfortable when he could share the scoring burden with teammates. Now we know that he can take over games and be the go to guy, scoring or drawing fouls at will in crunch time. It must be something specific to Jordans, I guess.
In his other plays, Jordan showed what an explosive mix his acceleration combined with elevation can be (as the second clip shows it sometimes stuns even himself and make him lose his balance) and what a dizziness his accelerated dribble drives can generate. He also showed uncompromising virulence of his jumpers; productive precision of his passes as well as ability to make great off ball play.
In addition he displayed that he can set the tone on the defensive end, too. Not only he was sharper in his on ball defense, making better job of navigating through screens (though he can still sometimes be caught going through screen too routinely), but he showed that with his agility he can’t be so easily exposed on switches. And with hustle plays like this one, he showed that he can be spiritus movens of the whole team defense, giving spark for enhanced effort from his teammates.
Also Donta showed something new. Whereas Jordan showed that he can defend against bigs, Donta showed that he can defend against guards on switches. We always had suspected that with his physical tools and love for defensive and hustle plays he should be good in this regard. Now we have some proof. Of course, there can’t be our weekly Grand Rapids update without some Donta’s monster block and hustle on o-glass. Grand Rapids’ starting center also showed his usefulness in transition and competence in the post. Speaking about the latter, in the game against Salt Lake City, we found Donta having some trouble with making strong plays from high(er) post. However, in most cases he nimbly finds ways to make up for his lightness in this type of plays.
Louis was preparing for his debut in the Pistons’ uniform, so he was frugal in two games he played for the Drive in discussed period. Nevertheless, he made some good plays. On defense, he showed his nice hustle plays. On offense, he showed his proficiency in triples and in running P&Rs, albeit he has some stubborn problem with delivering lobs on target.
As we mentioned, in the last game of the discussed period the Drive played without its "big four". It allowed other players to step up. The biggest step was made by double-edge Sword. In the first game of the period he showed some nice play but then followed it with one of his main drawback, that is drive into traffic. In the second game he was invisible. But in the third he exploded for 25 points and added 6 assists, 4 boards and 3 steals. Finally he made triples with good efficiency, as well as some nice drives. He showed nice footwork in quasi-post up play, competence in running P&Rs, in passing, in moving the ball and moving without the ball. He wasn’t be himself if he didn’t make one of his trademarked two-way plays. And in that game we caught him only once behaving like Headless Horseman.
Also Khalil Iverson played good in Grand Rapids’ third game of the discussed period, showing some good stuff on both ends of the floor. The 6’5 forward played also well on both ends of the floor in the first game. And this thunder block from that Vegas game is still the brightest spot in "the city of lights".