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Let’s Appreciate Some Great LA D-Fenders From Years Gone By

Dakota Schmidt looks at some great LA D-Fenders from the past like Roscoe Smith and Courtney Forson

Los Angeles D-Fenders v Idaho Stampede Photo by Otto Kitsinger/NBAE via Getty Images

Roscoe Smith (2014-15, 2016-17)

One of the most common occurence that continue to pop up in the G League every year is seeing players that would probably either get a call-up or get a permanent role with a team if they improved at a certain skill. Whether it was a lockdown defender like Briante Weber or DeAndre Liggins becoming better perimeter threats or Antonio Blakeney matching phenomenal scoring with more effort on defense.

Another player that fell into that category during the mid 2010’s would be 6’9, 202 pound forward Roscoe Smith. Following a forgettable three year run with UNLV, he entered the 2014 NBA Draft after his junior season. While he wasn’t one of the sixty players to get selected in that year’s festivities, the forward didn’t have to wait long to see where he’d be starting his pro career as the Los Angeles Lakers signed him to a training camp deal on September 23rd.

Although the rookie’s time with Los Angeles didn’t last long, as he was waived in the following month, it helped set up his transition to the D-League as he moved to the D-Fenders as an affiliate player. Despite not being the most herald prospect entering that season, Smith was able to immediately establish himself as one of the league’s’ best rookies. In 49 games, the rookie averaged 18.1 points, and 11 rebounds per game on 53% from the field. Those numbers were good enough to get named to the 2015 All-Star game and be named to All-Rookie 3rd Team.

While he shined as a great double-double threat, there was one reason why Smith went through the full 2014-15 campaign without getting called up: defense. After going through his film from this season on Synergy, it was clear that 6’8 forward struggled as an on-ball defender through being unable to stop drivers and losing his man through ball watching. Despite his lackluster work on the defensive end, he still left the D-League that year as a premier forward prospect through being able to dominate on the offensive glass and using a quick first step to get around his man and drive to the rim.

Following that solid rookie season, the UNLV alum took his talents overseas in the following two years by playing with Greece’s AE Nea Kifisia and Israel’s Ironi Nes Ziona in 2015-16 before heading to Mexico to be a member of Aguilas Doradas de Durango of the CIBACOPA. After adding more stamps to his passport, the 6’9 forward returned to the D-League in 2016-17 to join the D-Fenders. Unfortunately for him, he was unable to capture the offensive magic from his rookie year. From 2016-19 until his last time in the G League in 2018-19, the veteran was unable to score more than 11 points per game.

Terrence Williams (2013-14)

After a four-year run in the NBA where he played with New Jersey, Houston, Sacramento, Boston, the 11th pick in the 2009 NBA Draft made his way to the D-League to play for the Los Angeles D-Fenders. Immediately after arriving to the team on December 30th, 2013, the 6’6 veteran immediately shined as one of the best wings in the league. During his first month in the league, Williams impressed by averaging 21.5 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 1.4 assists on 42% from the field and 39% from beyond the arc on 6.3 attempts per game.

While his efficiency fluctuated during the last three months of the season, he was able to use an efficient perimeter jumper and slick change of speed moves that helped him drive with both hands, to become one of the most explosive scorers in the league. That electrifying play was headlined in a February 1st game against the dearly departed Idaho Stampede where he put 50 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists, and 3 steals on 18-37 from the field, 6-13 from 3 and 8-13 from the free throw line.

Despite those great numbers, Williams only finished 3rd Team All-NBA D-League through being unfortunately playing in the same season that had a plethora of players score at least 20 points per game during the season.

Following that great season with the D-Fenders, Williams would only play one more year of professional hoops. Over the course of a 12 month stretch, he remained busy by signing with Brujos de Guayama of Puerto Rico in April, Mexico’s Fuerza Regia in Mexico on December 26th, Maccabi Ashdod in Isreal on January 17th, Vaqueros de Bayamon of Puerto Rico in March, and Guaiqueries de Margarita in Venezuela in April.

Courtney Fortson (2011-13)

When I started to watch the D-League back in the 2012-13 season, Fortson stood alongside the aforementioned Chris Wright as one of the players that immediately caught my eye. While the former Red Claws forward caught my idea with his athleticism, the 5’11 guard immediately impressed an 18-year-old me through being a player that was able to use quickness and shiftiness to be able to get past his opponents and be able to slither his way towards the paint. That ability to get towards the paint also caught the attention of opposing defenses, which created open opportunities for his teammates.

Those keys allowed him to average 17.8 points, 7.1 assists, 5 rebounds, and 2 steals on 40% from the field and 36% from 3 on 4 attempts per game in 2012-13 for the LA D-Fenders. Despite those great numbers, Fortson didn’t receive a single award during that season.

Following that season, the 5’11 guard permanetly left the D-League to start a career overseas. In the last seven years, he’s traveled the globe playing in Russia, Venezuela, Turkey and China. While he was solid in three of those countries, Fortson has stood as an absolute monster playing with Zhejiang Guansha of the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA). During his four years in the league, there hasn’t been a season where he’s averaged less than 23 points per game with a true shooting percentage below 51%. That time in the league peaked in 2017-18 where he won the CBA International MVP.