Grand Rapids Drive Expected To Become Nuggets’ G League Affiliate

The Nuggets are expected to finally get a G League affiliate of their own for the 2021/22 season, according to Mike Singer of The Denver Post, who reports that the franchise is on track to enter a partnership with the Grand Rapids Drive. The agreement won’t become official until the end of the season, Singer adds.

Last season, Denver was one of two NBA teams – along with Portland – that didn’t have a G League affiliate of its own, while the Drive, based in Michigan, were affiliated with the Pistons.

The Suns subsequently sold their G League affiliate to the Pistons, who are relocating the Northern Arizona Suns to Detroit and rebranding them as the Motor City Cruise for the ’21/22 campaign. That left the Drive without an NBA partner, freeing them up for the Nuggets. Phoenix and Portland now project to be the only teams without NBAGL affiliates next season.

According to Singer, the Nuggets have attempted for years to set up a G League affiliate, exploring cities like Las Vegas, Seattle, Nashville, San Diego, and Omaha, but have always run into roadblocks.

Partnering with Grand Rapids won’t be geographically convenient – there are no plans for the Drive to relocate to Colorado, per Singer – but it will at least give the Nuggets a place to send and develop their young prospects and two-way players. In recent years, Denver has had to either keep those youngsters with the NBA squad or rely on various other G League teams to play and develop them.

Because the infrastructure and an ownership group is already in place for the Drive, the Nuggets will have a hybrid relationship with the team, assuming control of the basketball operations department after buying in for roughly $9MM, Singer explains.

While those hybrid relationships used to be more common, the Rockets and the Rio Grande Valley Vipers are the only other active one now, according to Singer. Most NBA clubs have bought their own G League franchises or established expansion teams. That’s still an option the Nuggets could pursue eventually, either by trying to buy and relocate the Drive, or by continuing their attempts to set up a more local expansion team.

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5 thoughts on “Grand Rapids Drive Expected To Become Nuggets’ G League Affiliate

  1. Sensitive Fanboy

    This is weird. Michigan now has 2 G-league teams & the only way this is convenient for Denver is long stretches of G-league assignment for 2-way players. The bean counters probably figured air fare is cheaper than franchise relocation.

    Main thing is in-state Nuggets fans get robbed of watching young rostered players develop. I guess they can ask Pistons fans how things are going over there on social media!

    • Luke Adams

      The Drive’s ownership group (which includes Ben Wallace!) has been pretty adamant about keeping the team in Grand Rapids. Maybe there’s a number that would change their mind, but it may not be worth the geographical convenience for the Nuggets to overpay to buy them out, then find somewhere to put the team locally.

      • Sensitive Fanboy

        Wallace wants a controlling stake in the team, Pistons probably didn’t like that, Denver said, great, we don’t have to build from the ground up, Nugs coaches & development team & don’t have to operate the day to days in the FO. Sounds great for $9 mil!

    • Howie415

      A little weirder. There are 3 G-League teams within 2 hours of San Francisco. Santa Cruz, Warriors, is 70 miles away. Walnut Creek, Ignite, is 35 miles away. Ignite is the worst name for the team. They should have named the Diablos. The team plays at the base of Mt. Diablo. Stockton, Kings, is 80 miles away.

  2. alphatron10

    Honestly the Sioux Falls Skyforce should just become the Nuggets G-League Team. Bring back the Florida Flame for the Heat, the Idaho Stampede for the Blazers, and the Albuquerque Thunderbirds the Suns.

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