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How Derek Willis And Landry Nnoko Could Help The Grand Rapids Drive

Editor Dakota Schmidt looks at how Derek Willis and Landry Nnoko could affect the Grand Rapids Drive when the G League season begins.

Kentucky v North Carolina Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

On late Monday afternoon, Detroit Pistons site editor Keith Langlois tweeted out that the team has waived forwards Landry Nnoko and Derek Willis. That decision helped push the squad to have 15 players on their active roster if you don’t include their two-way prospects, Dwight Buycks and Luis Montero, who should be spending the majority of the season with the Grand Rapids Drive, their G League affiliate. According to Langlois, both Nnoko and Willis will be joining that duo in Grand Rapids when G League training camp begins later this month.

Nnoko will enter in the G League as a 6’10 forward that played college ball as a member of the Clemson Tigers. Although he only averaged 22 minutes during his final year with the team, Nnoko still fit a pivotal role within the organization as a dominating rim protector. That status was evident by him averaging an ACC-best 2.3 blocks per game while also being named to the conference’s All-Defensive team.

The main reason behind those terrific block numbers was due to how versatile Nnoko was as a rim protector. Obviously, he’s able to use that strong 255 pound frame to police the paint against any forwards or centers that are trying to score through post-ups or normal looks around the rim. Even as a help defender, he’s able to quickly slide his feet to stop any players that think they can drive to the basket. However, he also showed this rare ability to stick with cutting forwards. While that was a rarity, its still a great sign from someone as big as Nnoko.

On the other end of the court, Nnoko mainly stands as a threat on the offensive glass and in pick-and-rolls. As an offensive rebounder, Nnoko shined with Clemson as he averaged 2.2 boards, impressive considering that he only played 22 minutes per game as a senior. Within the pick-and-roll, his big body and quick feed allow him to be a pretty solid target for guards. An example of that is seen in the clip below.

While Nnoko does a lot of his damage from inside the paint, former Kentucky forward Derek Willis thrives when he’s working beyond the arc. During his final two seasons with the team, Willis displayed his sharp-shooting prowess as he put up 7.3 points and 4.7 rebounds per game on 48% from the field and 41% from beyond the arc on 3.6 perimeter attempts per game. That perimeter percentage is actually better than former Syracuse forward and Nuggets first round pick Tyler Lydon who shot 40% on 3.5 perimeter attempts per game.

Coinciding with that strong perimeter jumper, Willis was able to help Kentucky through his work as an on-ball drive and as an offensive rebounder. As a cutter, Willis is ridiculously quick for a player his size as he’s able to drive from the perimeter to the paint in a blink of an eye. On the other end, Willis averaged 1 offensive board in 21.9 minutes per game. While that might not seem like much, its a minor improvement over what he was like when he entered Kentucky.

Although Landry Nnoko and Derek Willis will be entering Grand Rapids as overlooked players, there’s definitely a chance that they can both stand solid G League prospects. For Nnoko, he’ll have an opportunity to shine as one of the league’s finest rim protectors while also hustling on the offensive glass. Meanwhile, Willis could be an elite stretch four that can contribute as an on-ball driver and improving defender.