When the Grand Rapids Drive tip-off with the Westchester Knicks later today, they’ll have three Detroit Pistons‘ assignees in the lineup. Forward Henry Ellenson and guards Michael Gbinije and Darrun Hilliard were assigned to the NBA Development League last night in an effort to get the players some playing time while both teams are on the East Coast. Detroit plays in Miami tonight and in Boston on Monday.
While Ellenson has appeared in 14 games this season with the Pistons, he’s averaged only 4 minutes per game. His 1.5 points and 0.9 rebounds per contest aren’t quite what a team needs from the 18th overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft. In his six games with the Drive this season, though, the 6’11 former Marquette big man has averaged 18.3 points, 9.7 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 1.2 blocks and 1.0 steals, playing 34.3 minutes on average. With a deep and talented front court in Detroit, Ellenson is usually one of the the last men off the bench.
Hilliard has shown some bright spots in the League, especially from behind the 3-point arc. In his 26 games this season with Detroit, the 6’6″ second-year guard out of Villanova is averaging 3.4 points, 1.0 rebounds and 0.9 assists in 11.1 minutes per game. Selected with the 38th overall pick (2nd Round) in the 2015 NBA Draft, Hilliard appeared in three games D-League games last season, averaging 25.7 points, 3.7 rebounds and 2.7 assists in 32.8 minutes, including Brandon Jennings’ rehab game.
Gbinije is a player who should be a regular in the Drive lineup. He has appeared in only eight games this season with the Pistons, averaging 0.5 points and 0.4 rebounds in 3.6 minutes per game. But in five games with the Drive this season, Gbinije has averaged 13.2 points, 4.4 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.8 steals, while playing 35.1 minutes. The 49th selection of last year’s NBA Draft could make a huge leap in production if he was just given the chance to get some minutes, and he should be a good fit in coach Rex Walters’ system in Grand Rapids. There’s also the possibility that practicing against the likes of Tobias Harris, KCP, Marcus Morris and Hilliard is more of a challenge than some of the talent in Westchester and Delaware.