On March 29th, 2014, two-time NBA D-League All-Star Vander Blue joined NBADL legends Ron Howard and Renaldo Major as the only players in league history to put up more than 4,000 points during their career.
Blue was able to join those great former D-Leaguers due to a terrific performance against the Bighorns. During that late March matchup, the D-League veteran showcased the same level of confidence and aggression that he’s maintained since he first put on a D-Fenders uniform.
Putting up a career-high 41 points against a mediocre Bighorns defense, Blue did his best impersonation of James Harden by going 23-27 from the free-throw line. Blue’s persistence to make his way to the free-throw line was a terrific idea as he struggled away from the charity stripe. Those struggles were evident as he shot 9-23 from the field and 0-5 from beyond the arc, which allowed him to only shoot 39% from the field during that victory over Reno.
Luckily, those struggles were more of an aberration than anything else as Blue was able to remain pretty efficient while putting up high scoring averages. That knack has been evident throughout his NBADL career as Blue’s averaged 23.5 points per game with a 56% True Shooting Percentage, which is well above-average among D-league guards.
Although he’s remained fantastic through his entire D-League career, Blue arguably played his best basketball during the 2016-17 season. Averaging 24.8 points, 5.1 rebounds, 3 assists and 1.6 steals per game on 44% from the field and 35% from beyond the arc. Those numbers pushed him to maintain a career-best 57% True Shooting Percentage.
Evident from those great numbers, Blue stood as a fantastic offensive weapon that can shine in a variety of different ways, from strong on/off-ball cuts to being able to work as both a perimeter and mid-range shooter.
Among those skills, he did his best work as an on-ball cutter. Starting with a quick first step, Blue displays terrific handles as he can make his way towards the paint with either his left or right hand. Once he’s able to move his way past that initial perimeter defender, Blue’s able to finish with a textbook layup or vicious dunk.
Transitioning from the perimeter to the paint, Blue’s able to maintain his status as a solid player. Shooting 35% from beyond the arc on five attempts per game, Blue maintains a reasonably normal shooting stroke that’s quick and has a high release point. While solid as a perimeter shooter, he did his best work inside the perimeter where he shot 42% from between 15-19 feet. That increased efficiency was likely due to Blue being able to utilize his smooth ball-handling to break down the opposition and get an open jumper.
Blue’s terrific play on the offensive end ultimately pushed the LA D-Fenders to stand as the second best offensive team in the entire D-League. Per 100 possessions, the D-Fenders were ten points better when he was on the court (114 points per 100) compared to when he was sitting on the sidelines (104.5 points per 100). Those 10 points marks the difference between the D-Fenders being the best offensive squad in the D-League or the absolute worst. Unsurprisingly, Blue’s great play was enough to push the D-Fenders to finish the season at 34-16, which stood as the second best record in the NBADL.
Taking that impact in consideration, it’s hard to argue that Blue didn’t stand as the best player during this D-League season. That claim has allowed us to name Vander Blue as RidiculousUpside’s Most Valuable Player for the 2016-17 NBADL campaign.
Last season’s MVP - Jarnell Stokes, Sioux Falls Skyforce