In 2006, the Lakers became the first NBA franchise to own and control its own NBA Development League team. Ten years later, nine other franchises have followed suit, with five more on the way beginning next season.
Playing their games at the Lakers’ practice facility in El Segundo, Calif., the L.A. D-Fenders have developed a winning culture just 15 miles from the Staples Center. They’ve reached their second NBA D-League Finals in five years and this time will look to capture their first championship.
Here’s what you need to know about the D-Fenders, by the numbers:
Current Lakers have spent time with the D-Fenders
L.A.’s affiliate and parent club are among the closest in physical proximity, and the Lakers have made the gap seem even closer over the years. Six different Lakers have played on assignment with the D-Fenders over the past three seasons, including up-and-coming guard Jordan Clarkson and 2015 draft pick Anthony Brown. Four D-Fenders have been called up to the Lakers over that span.
Clarkson used his five-game NBA D-League stint as a launching pad during his rookie season and has credited that stint with giving him a much-needed confidence boost.
D-Fenders star Vander Blue finished second in the league in scoring
Dubbed by ESPN as the man with 200 teammates, Blue endured a rookie season that took him through 49 games in 27 cities; for 10 head coaches on eight different teams; in four professional leagues on three continents.
The past two years, he’s found a home in L.A. The former Marquette standout raised his game to another level this season, averaging 26.3 points per game and posting four games with 40+. Blue is the minor league’s Russell Westbrook, a relentless guard who never sways from attack mode.
Combined seasons of pro experience among L.A.’s five starters.
Joining Blue in the backcourt is underdog point guard Josh Magette, who’s emerged from the University of Alabama-Huntsville to lead the NBA D-League in assists (9.2) and steals (2.4) in his third pro season.
Three vets round out the D-Fenders’ starting five:
- The NBA D-League’s longest-tenured player, eighth-year shooting guard Andre Ingram became the league’s all-time leader in threes made this season. He shot 49.6% on the year and put on a show at the Three-Point Contest during All-Star Weekend in Toronto, making a record 39 of 50 shots.
- 33-year-old forward Ryan Gomes is a familiar name to NBA fans, spending parts of eight seasons in the Association.
- Stretch big man Justin Harper partners with Gomes to give L.A. a versatile frontcourt. He was called up to the Pistons earlier this season.
Combined, they (ironically) give the D-Fenders a high-powered offense that finished fourth in Offensive Rating.
Year the D-Fenders last appeared in the NBADL Finals
At 38-12, the 2011-12 D-Fenders owned the best regular-season record in Development League history… until the 2015-16 Skyforce, L.A.’s opponent in this series, rattled off 40 wins.
Six players from that 2012 juggernaut were called up to the NBA, including wing Gerald Green, who rejuvenated his career with the D-Fenders.
The 2012 team lost to the Austin Spurs in the title round; L.A. hopes to spoil the Skyforce’s record-setting season this time around.