Game-changing factors that define the Motor City Cruise’s inaugural season playoff push

By Noah Happy | April 7, 2022

DETROIT – The Motor City Cruise, NBA G League affiliate of the Detroit Pistons, finished their regular season on Saturday with a 22-10 record and qualified for the NBA G League Playoffs. Sitting as a two seed in the Eastern Conference, the Cruise earned themselves a first-round bye.

Motor City has had unprecedented success throughout the organization’s inaugural season. They’re one of three G League teams that qualified for both the Showcase Cup tournament and the NBA G League Playoffs. They’ve built a roster that has versatility and fits the NBA’s style of play, especially in their frontcourt. Led by Derrick Walton Jr. as well as Pistons players Saben Lee and Luka Garza, the Cruise are in a position to bring a championship to Detroit in their first year. Here are some of the biggest contributors to Motor City’s success as they cruise into the playoffs.

Roster of Resilience

The Cruise’s first roster was built by President and GM Rob Murphy last October through the G League Draft, free agency signings and the team’s open tryout. Their roster features several players who excelled in college but are still finding their footing in the NBA.

A select group of those players earned opportunities with the Pistons at the beginning of the year due to the COVID-19 outbreak throughout the NBA in the winter. The Cruise have had a total of seven NBA call-ups this season as a result. Derrick Walton Jr., Cheick Diallo, Deividas Sirvydis and Trayvon Palmer each signed one 10-day contract with the Pistons, while Cassius Stanley has signed three 10-day contracts with the Pistons so far.

Between Pistons player assignments, call-ups and injuries, the Cruise have featured 18 different starting lineups throughout this season. They’ve played small ball with guard-dominant lineups, packed the paint by starting two centers and have consistently relied on lengthy forwards that can shoot the ball. With seven players averaging double-figures in scoring this season, the Cruise have proven that they can score on all three levels (perimeter, mid-range, interior). Motor City will continue to be unpredictable throughout the playoffs because of their roster’s depth and versatility.

Getting Big in the Paint

If there’s one area where the Cruise have consistently dominated throughout this season, it’s been their interior play. The Cruise are fourth in the G League in rebounds per game (49.6), which is largely due to the effectiveness of Motor City big men Luka Garza and Cheick Diallo. Garza has dominated the paint all season as the Cruise’s primary starter with averages of 20.6 points, 9.5 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game on 51.8% shooting. Diallo has been just as dominant whether he comes off the bench or starts at center, currently averaging a double-double with 14.5 points, 10.8 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game. Diallo is also sixth in the G League in field goal percentage (66.8).

The biggest surprise, however, comes from the results of the way Motor City rebounds as a team. The Cruise have outrebounded their opponents in every single win (22) throughout the regular season. At the same time, opponents have outrebounded the Cruise in seven of their 10 losses. If there’s one statistic that could possibly dictate a win for the Cruise, it’s surely their ability to rebound the basketball.

D-Walt the Difference Maker

When looking at the success the Cruise has had this season, it’s critical to understand how much of an impact Derrick Walton Jr. has on this team. He’s averaging 16.8 points, 9.5 assists, 5.5 rebounds and 1.4 steals per game for Motor City going into the playoffs. Double-doubles have been a frequent occasion for him, recording 11 this season along with the only two triple-doubles in Cruise history. Walton led the G League in assists per game during the regular season (9.5) by a wide margin, with the next highest average being 8.1 per game. He’s played the most minutes on the team and has the second highest efficiency rating (23.3) in the process. That comes from his elite shot-making ability while shooting a low volume for a starting point guard. Walton is currently shooting 50.3% on only 11.7 attempts per game and 39% from three on 3.3 attempts per game.

The former Michigan guard gets to his spots, takes efficient shots and effortlessly gets his teammates involved. He doesn’t have to be a high-volume shooter to affect winning, but he’s proven that he can be. The combination of Walton’s leadership, IQ and control over the game will make the Cruise a tough team for anyone to beat throughout this post-season.

Eastern Conference Semifinals

The Cruise will host their first playoff game against the Delaware Blue Coats on Friday, April 8 at 8:30 PM ET at Wayne State Fieldhouse in Detroit, MI. The game will also be televised on ESPNU.

About The Motor City Cruise
The Motor City Cruise, based in Detroit, MI, are the new NBA G League affiliate of the Detroit Pistons. One of 30 teams in the NBA G League, the Cruise are one of three new franchises added to the G League this season. Season tickets, group tickets and single-game tickets are available on cruisebasketball.com. Stay up to date with the Motor City Cruise by following @MotorCityCruise on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and TikTok.