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2016-17 NBADL Team Preview: Grand Rapids Drive

To start our 2016-17 NBADL season preview, editor Dakota Schmidt takes a look at the Grand Rapids Drive.

Detroit Pistons v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

Projected Opening Day Starting Five

Point Guard: Ray McCallum

Shooting Guard: Jordan Crawford

Small Forward: Chris Horton

Power Forward: Nikola Jankovic

Center: Mamadou N’diaye

How Did Grand Rapids Do Last Year?

Despite featuring D-League star Devin Ebanks and NBA veteran Henry Sims, the Drive had rough 2015-16 campaign by finishing with a disappointing 21-29 record. That season continued the team’s struggles to even a .500 season, as 2011-12 (when they were still the Springfield Armor) was the last season where they finished above .500.

How Will They Do This Year?

While losing Sims and Ebanks would be considered as huge losses for the team, the Drive have been able to bring in a solid crop of players. That’s especially seen in the back-court, where they feature three players with NBA experience: Ray McCallum, Shannon Brown and Jordan Crawford. The talented trio will be coached by former University of San Francisco coach Rex Walters, who led that team to a combined 126-125 record during his eight years with the team. That combination of a solid back-court with an experienced coach could potentially lead Grand Rapids to the success that they haven’t previously seen.

Who Is The Most Likely Call-Up?

Although the Drive features a solid crop of players, that nod will have to go to Ray McCallum. It’s actually surprise to see McCallum in the D-League this year as he’s had plenty of success in the NBA. That was especially seen during his time with the Sacramento Kings, where he averaged 7.4 points, 2.8 assists and .7 steals per game on 44% shooting in 21 minutes per game during the 2014-15 season.

Following that solid season, McCallum was dealt to the San Antonio Spurs where he ultimately got lost in the shuffle. That shouldn’t be the case during the upcoming season, as the 6’3 McCallum will have an opportunity to play a significant role with the Drive and possibly showcase himself as a significant NBA prospect.

Most Likely Assignee?

That nod will probably go to Henry Ellenson, Detroit’s 18th overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft. So far in the young season, Ellenson has only played two of the Pistons’ first five games where he’s averaged only 2.5 minutes. Despite being a versatile offensive threat, Ellenson should need some in the NBA D-League to work on his lackluster defense. Until those clear flaws are fixed, Ellenson probably won’t be able to land a consistent spot on the Pistons rotation.

What Kind Of Impact Will 7’6 Mamadou N’Diaye Make?

Although the Grand Rapids Drive are filled with NBA veterans, arguably the most intriguing player on the team is 7’6 center Mamadou N’Diaye. Although that huge 7’6 frame definitely catches the attention of most fans, N’Diaye compliments that by being a pretty decent all-around center. The UC-Irvine alum has a solid touch inside the low-post and was a dominating defensive threat that averaged 2.5 blocks per game during his college career.

Despite that, N’Diaye will enter his D-League faced with some significant concerns. Most of that concern is due to that gigantic 7’6, 300 pound frame. In modern-day pro game where offenses are fast-paced and perimeter-minded, will a 7’6 big be able to to keep on a consistent basis? Will he be able to play more than the 21.7 minutes per game that he averaged in college? We’re going to have to wait and see.