The Nuggets will have a G League affiliate starting next season, the team announced in a press release. Denver will partner with the Grand Rapids Drive, which was previously affiliated with the Pistons.
The G League team will be a hybrid affiliate, which means the Nuggets will control basketball operations, while the Drive’s current ownership, led by Steve Jbara, will conduct business operations and community engagement. The team will unveil a new name in the next few weeks.
News of the arrangement was first reported in February.
“We are extremely excited about this partnership and look forward to what the future holds for our franchises,” said Nuggets president of basketball operations Tim Connelly. “We know that Grand Rapids is an excellent organization and the collaboration we can have with our own G League team is something that will be hugely beneficial to our players, staff and organization. It’s just a great situation for all parties involved.”
The Drive’s partnership with the Pistons ended last year when the Suns sold their G League affiliate to Detroit. The Northern Arizona Suns will move to Detroit next season and will be called the Motor City Cruise. The Drive had to search for a new affiliate and were reluctant to leave the city that they have called home since 2014.
The Nuggets, meanwhile, have sought to establish a G League team for years, according to Mike Singer of The Denver Post, who notes that the team has considered cities like Las Vegas, Seattle, Nashville, San Diego, and Omaha. Roadblocks such as local ownership issues or building restrictions always got in the way.
The Nuggets’ new affiliate will be located several states away, in Grand Rapids, Michigan, which won’t necessarily allow for constant shuttling of players back and forth between the NBA and G League teams. But it will give Denver an opportunity to develop its young players first-hand at the NBAGL level.
“I couldn’t be more thrilled to announce our partnership with Denver and am excited to welcome the Nuggets to Michigan and the Grand Rapids family,” Jbara said. “This partnership is a true testament to the Nuggets’ commitment to development and we’re so happy to be able to help the team continue those initiatives in Grand Rapids for years to come.”
With today’s announcement, Phoenix and Portland will be the only NBA teams without a direct G League affiliate for 2021/22.