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Lakers' D-league guard Vander Blue is blooming

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Another prospect right in the Lakers' backyard is showing promise now that his career is stabilizing.

Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

In my recent look at Bryce Cotton I noted that teams may shy away from giving him a look due to his lack of size. Especially in the case for the Los Angeles Lakers, who seem to lean towards length over anything else, might not be interested in Cotton if there are more appealing options on the table. By taking that logic into the world of D-League prospects, current LA D-Fenders guard Vander Blue might make for a more appealing option.

Since his high school days at Madison Memorial Prep, where he was looked at as one of the best perimeter players to come out of Wisconsin, Blue has been an explosive scoring threat. That led Blue to receiving a four-star high school recruit rating and accepting a scholarship from Marquette.

While the hometown prospect entered the stacked Big East conference with a ton of expectations, Blue stumbled out of the gate during his freshman year. On nearly 20 minutes per game, Blue averaged five points per game on 39 percent shooting. To put that in a more analytical perspective, Blue averaged only .68 PPP (points per possession) during his freshman year. As his college career continued, Blue became a much more efficient offensive weapon, which you can tell from the following graph:

Category

Freshman

Sophomore

Junior

Field Goal Percentage

39%

41%

45%

Points Per Possession

0.68

0.76

0.943

Usage Rating

18.5

20.3

25.7

Points Per 40 Minutes

10.6

13

17.9

Despite that continued improvement, Blue left the 2013 off-season as an undrafted free agent after leaving Marquette prior to his senior season. Blue's undrafted status ultimately led to an insane journey where he played with eight teams over a short eight-month stretch that included stints with three separate D-League teams, Israel and a brief 10-day run with the Boston Celtics.

After a year that was filled with complete and utter lack of stability, Vander Blue started the current campaign by signing an early-season deal with the LA D-Fenders. Although Blue probably didn't have the D-Fenders in his aspirations, his current run with the team has definitely done improved his stock as an NBA prospect.

Blue still has enjoyed plenty of opportunities to showcase his natural athletic gifts. While he doesn't possess an incredibly quick first step, Blue consistently finds ways to maneuver his way from the perimeter to make his way toward the paint. Due in large part to his natural athletic gifts, Blue is able to score through traffic. Alongside that innate ability, Blue is also capable of drawing contact while in the process of penetration, which has lead to him averaging more than six free-throw attempts per game. Vander stands as a pretty dependable option at the charity stripe, shooting 72 percent from the line.

This is what you're getting with Vander Blue:

While on the topic of dependability, Vander has developed the reputation as one of the go-to perimeter shooters in the entire D-League. He has one of the smoothest shooting strokes the D-league has ever seen, which has ultimately lead to him shooting 44 percent from beyond the arc. Blue is definitely comfortable scoring with the ball in his hands, but the vast majority of his perimeter work is via catch-and-shoot.

When you put Blue's current work offensive ability into a more a digestible dose, you can see that he's one of the best scorers in the entire league. As of the time of this writing, Blue is averaging 22 points per game, which is headlined by an excellent 58 percent true shooting percentage.

Alongside that excellent scoring ability, Vander Blue has made an impact as a facilitator, which is a skill he never really displayed until this season. Using the same skills that make him such a solid penetrator, Blue is able to dish it off to a D-Fenders teammate while cutting toward the paint. Alongside that, Blue has displayed an excellent court vision, which is either apparent from his 2.07 AST/TO ratio or from the following gifs:

Compared to Bryce Cotton, Vander Blue stands at 6'5 which makes him the perfect size for the two-guard position. As mentioned in that Cotton piece, Wayne Ellington is the team's lone shooting guard option, which would give Vander Blue more of an opportunity to showcase himself as both a scorer and distributor.

Although he can get to the rim with his ball-handling skills, working alongside Carlos Boozer or Ed Davis in pick-and roll situations could be beneficial. While on the topic of assisting Vander Blue, playing with an actual facilitator like Jeremy Lin could actually improve his offensive efficiency, giving him more catch-and-shoot opportunities.

In a similar way to Cotton, Blue could also factor in as a potential rotation player for the team down the road. On a year-by-year basis, Blue continues to show significant improvement, which should continue. With those potential future improvements combined with his already established skills, it's definitely possible to see Blue become a future NBA rotation player for the Lakers or any other NBA team.