While the Lakers' young players were shinging in Los Angeles' win over the Boston Celtics, one of the team's D-League affiliate players, the undrafted Robert Upshaw, continued the recent upswing in his level of play with the Los Angeles D-Fenders on Wednesday night in the team's 111-110 win over the Raptors 905. Upshaw had his first double-double of the season for the D-Fenders in the second game of their back-to-back road set, scoring 14 points to go with 13 rebounds and 5 blocked shots in 27 minutes, all season and career highs for the young big man.
It was the second solid game in two nights for Upshaw, who is now averaging 11.4 points, 9 rebounds, and 2.4 blocks in 21.2 minutes per game over his past five games with the D-Fenders as he demonstrates more comfort and better conditioning after a pedestrian start to his rookie season. The most impressive stat there might be the minutes, which have actually gone up over each game of that five game period as Upshaw continues to round into shape after taking a long break from organized basketball prior to kicking back into gear with the Lakers' Summer League team.
(For a more in-depth breakdown on what Upshaw has done better over this stretch, please see my breakdown of his game against the Delawar 87ers)
Improved play aside, there are also possessions where it is fairly obvious why Upshaw went undrafted and why neither the Lakers nor any of the league's other 29 teams saw fit to offer him a regular season contract. For one, he still fouls too often, a problem for a lot of young big men but also one that Upshaw will have to work on if he wants to earn more minutes or an NBA offer. He has picked up 4 fouls in both of his last two games, and needs to do a better job not lunging at fakes.
Upshaw was also benched down most of the stretch on Wednesday night after being subbed out of the game with 8:18 seconds left in the fourth quarter, but D-Fenders coach Casey Owens trusted him enough to throw him back into action for defensive purposes with 18.2 seconds left in a 107-103 game.
The results were mixed. After the 905 scored on Upshaw's first possession when the D-Fenders did not help the helper, but Upshaw's rotation did force a miss from Toronto (and now just one year away from being two years away) forward Bruno Caboclo, who had 17 points on the evening:
On the next possession, however, the lumbering big man was beaten for an offensive rebound when his man, Ronald Roberts, Jr., scrambled around him to corral a missed three. However, Upshaw was able to use his length to recover and block Roberts, Jr.'s shot (which was subsequently tipped in by a skying Shannon Scott):
Upshaw was able to (kind of) get away with it this time, but he will have to show better simultaneous awareness of his man and the ball to do anything on the next level. At age 21 with just 15 professional games under his belt, Upshaw has shown enough that it's easy to see him getting there, but his much rumored off-court issues have also understandably given teams pause. With teams able to offer 10-day contracts beginning next week, it will be interesting to see how long the latter wins out over the former. If Upshaw continues to play like he has in recent games, it presumably won't be very long.
Watch full highlights of Upshaw's career highs here: