One of the surprise stories of this current G League season has been the phenomenal play of Grand Rapids Drive big Landry Nnoko. Entering the season as an affiliate player that got waived by the Pistons in training camp, I really didn’t expect much from him aside from maybe him being a really solid rim protector that can also do work on the offensive glass. In fact, that’s what I essentially wrote in an early October piece after the Pistons announced that they waived both him and Derek Willis.
However, he was able to eclipse the expectations that I had as he’s developed into arguably the best big in the G League that’s currently not under a two-way contract. That great confidence that I have is backed up by how Nnoko is currently averaging 14.6 points, 10.9 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.9 blocks per game on 57% from the field.
Nnoko’s great play has helped push the Drive to be one of the hottest teams in the NBA G League. Entering their Sunday afternoon game against the Memphis Hustle, they were on a league-best five game winning streak and were within 2.5 games of the Fort Wayne Mad Ants for the top spot in the Central Division. Unfortunately for Nnoko, he was sidelined for that game.
In his place, the Drive started 6’10 big Jon Horford, who spent the season stuck to the team’s second unit. That’s been a typical role for the big since he started to play in the G League with the Canton Charge in 2015-16. Over his career, Horford has averaged 4.1 points, 6.6 rebounds on 53% from the field in only 18 minutes per game.
Although he’s been mostly regarded as an after thought since joining the G League, Horford had an atypical game on Sunday afternoon. In 36 minutes, the veteran big put up 18 points, 22 rebounds (10 offensive), 7 assists and 2 blocks on 8-11 from the field and 1-2 from beyond the arc. Within that game, Horford set a career-high in points, assists, offensive rebounds and total rebounds. Alongside that, his 22 boards put him alongside Nnoko as the second-highest single-game total in Drive history. Current NBA journeyman Willie Reed maintains the spot spot when he grabbed 23 rebounds in a 2014-15 game against the Iowa Energy (now Wolves).
Despite his incredible Sunday afternoon game, Horford will likely return to his spot in the Drive’s second unit when Nnoko makes his return. Although its unlikely that we’ll ever see Horford have this type of performance again, this might’ve been a long-term benefit for the Drive. If Horford is able to take some of the confidence that he likely gained during that huge game, he could become an even more powerful part of the team’s front-court. That improvement from Horford would only make the Drive that much as they make our way through the final stages of this G League season.