In his third season in the NBA D-League (and third with the Los Angeles D-Fenders), Josh Magette has displayed veteran leadership as well as his own developing skills. Magette leads the league in assists with 9.8 per game, while also helping shepherd the D-Fenders to the best record in the league at 19-5.
Magette consistently collapses defenses and runs the pick-and-roll to perfection to set up his teammates for wide-open shots, and his 14.7 points per game show he’s become more than just a distributor, but his court awareness and vision are what stand out most. Magette is assisting on 38.9 percent of the D-Fenders field goals. To put that in perspective, LeBron James is assisting on 38.6 percent of the Cleveland Cavaliers field goals.
“He's a lot of fun to play with Josh,” D-Fenders forward Justin Harper told Silver Screen and Roll. “He knows where everybody is supposed to be on the court and how to find them, and where people are great when they catch the ball and are in scoring position. It’s like second nature to him, he makes it easy for me and easy for everyone.”
Los Angeles’ veteran guard Vander Blue is in his third season with the D-Fenders and leads the organization in career points, minutes, field goals and free throws. Blue is leading the D-Fenders in scoring with 24.5 points per game along with a 27.5 usage percentage compared to Magette’s 19.1 usage percentage.
But while Blue is frequently the go-to guy for the D-Fenders when they need a bucket, even he admits Magette is in control of the offense out on the court.
“He’s a floor general. He’s running the show. He knows when to find people and he always knows who’s hot,” Blue told Silver Screen and Roll. “I tell everyone he’s a great point guard and without his energy and effort we probably don’t get these wins.”
Magette has been a master at finding his teammates in scoring positions throughout his career with D-Fenders, which has led to him climbing the ranks in the D-League’s all-time leaders in assists. Magette is currently ranked eighth with 993 assists, one assist behind Carldell Johnson for the seventh spot. Magette appreciates where his work has put him, while at the same time he isn’t satisfied or focusing on his accomplishments, for now anyway.
“I know how many good guards have come through this league, and the level of competition, so it’s definitely something I’m proud of,” Magette told Silver Screen and Roll. “But I try not to look at personal accolades while everything’s going on. That’s something I might look at when I get closer to the top.”
Magette has yet to receive a call-up from a NBA team, however, with NBA teams now allowed to sign D-League players to 10-day contracts, Magette may be starting to catch the eye of some NBA scouts.
One NBA scout said Magette has all the intangibles you look for in a NBA point guard, citing his high basketball IQ and his ability to run offense well while taking what the defense gives him. The only factor that seems to be keeping Magette back from getting a shot in the NBA is his size.
“I know I’m not going to pass the eye-test, a six-foot white kid who’s 170 pounds, but you just have to look at the results,” Magette said. “Teams are trying to win games and I’ve been on a winning team my entire career. We have the best record in the league now so I just try to pride myself on winning games and I just let the rest take care of itself.”
D-Fenders looking for call-ups headed into D-League Showcase:
Magette isn’t the only member of the D-Fenders playing well. The defending Western Conference champions have run out to a D-League best 19-5 record while getting contributions from all over the roster.
Blue (the fourth-highest scorer in the D-League) has paced the team with 24.5 points per game. Big man Justin Harper has spewed flames from deep, canning 42 percent of his three-pointers en route to 16.8 points per game of his own.
Travis Wear isn’t far behind while making 38.1 percent of his triples, while Jeff Ayres has done his damage around the basket to the tune of 66.7 percent shooting. Even undrafted rookie David Nwaba has made his mark, with the team still 20.5 points per 100 possessions better while their tryout superstar is in the game.
All are potential call-up candidates heading into the D-League Showcase in Mississauga, Ontario next week, although D-Fenders head coach Coby Karl said he isn’t surprised none have received the call just yet.
“A little disappointed, but never surprised with professional basketball,” Karl said. “I just want those guys to have that reward because they've been doing it the right way. We're hopeful, and they're staying locked in, so it's just a matter of time.”
Their play has locked the D-Fenders into the best record in the D-League so far, and the team will be grateful for their depth if and when some of those players start getting called up or heading overseas.
The D-Fenders’ run to their league-best record hasn’t been for the faint of heart. The team is on a six-game winning streak, but won their last four games by one, two, two, and four points respectively.
“I'm not sure what they're doing, but I just figure we might as well just ease into it a little bit and start the game down 20,” Karl deadpanned. “Just to make it easier on us, because then we'll have more time to come back. There's no doubt that these guys can come back, they show their character every time.”
After coming back despite trailing by as much as 20 in the third quarter of their game against the Canton Charge to win in overtime, Karl has learned not to doubt his roster.
“I guess I should never worry with this group,” Karl said.
Blue dedicates win to memory of Cave:
Blue led the heroics for the D-Fenders on Saturday night against the charge, with his game-sealing four-point play leading to a another late win and a heartfelt moment. The D-Fenders attended a wake for their former video coordinator Adam Cave, who passed away in December, on Saturday morning, and Blue dedicated the victory to his memory.
“Adam was just a wonderful man. He was a special guy,” Karl said. “He was just consistently a happy guy who was excited to do what he did, and excited to see people.
“He's an example for us, and Vander said it at the end of the game 'this one was for Cave,'“ Karl continued. “Obviously we all felt that way, and it was good to see his family and remember him again. As time passes, we need to remind ourselves of how loved we are.”
Zubac[k and forth]:
Ivica Zubac became the tenth player ever to play for a D-League and NBA team in one day on Saturday, and the third member of the Los Angeles Lakers to do so. He detailed what it was like here.