Players in the NBA D-League should be rewarded for coming back. Development is key to this league, but moving on to greener pastures and breaking into The Association is the ultimate goal. Many prospects use the minor league as a platform for strutting their stuff and building their resumes for overseas, so that they can cash in on a more lucrative international opportunities soon after.
Such a strategy is perfectly fine, especially when a player needs to support himself, his family, etc. Everyone needs to make a living, and signing abroad gives such youngsters a better chance to do that in many (of course, not all) cases. Should an NBA call-up not be within grasp, sometimes this proves to be best, if not merely most logical, form of action.
That said, those who stay the course should be rewarded. There are players who have legitimate NBA dreams, and hope to utilize all of the tools the D-League provides them with, in an attempt to chase those very dreams. Remaining stateside gives such players the best chance of staying in view and in the minds of big league staffers over the course of a campaign.
Vander Blue should be considered a poster-child of sorts for doing all of that and more while suiting up for the Los Angeles D-Fenders this season. Though he earned himself a call-up last season, there's no denying he continued improving and made more strides than ever before over the course of his second D-League campaign.
After suiting up for three different minor league teams last season, perhaps continuity proved to be the key for Blue in Los Angeles. As a true starring attraction in Hollywood, the guard averaged 23.3 points on 47% from the field and 42% from deep. What's more, he also logged 5.4 rebounds, 5.4 assists, and 1.9 steals through 49 appearances.
He improved across the board: 6.5 more points, 2.5 more assists, 1 more assist, and 0.6 more steals than last season. What's more, his overall shooting percentage rose from 39% to 47%, and his shooting from deep improved from 33% to 42% as well. Beyond the numbers, Blue was much more efficient, proving to be more assertive when attacking the basket, something he didn't always do with as much vigor in the season prior.
For the dedication he's shown and the improvements he's clearly made, Blue has earned RidiculousUpside.com's Most Improved Player award for the 2014-15 NBA D-League season.
After spending training camp with the Washington Wizards last fall, Blue's recent efforts in the NBADL prove he's ready to be tested again come NBA Summer League and training camp soon after. He deserves another look.
Runner-up for RU's M.I.P. award: Texas Legends' center Jarrid Famous, who led all of the NBA D-League with 14.9 rebounds per contest this season.
Last season's winner: James Nunnally, Texas Legends