The Lakers were led by Summer League MVP Lonzo Ball, who averaged 16.3 points, 9.3 assists, and 7.7 rebounds in six games, before missing the title game, because of a minor injury. And not too far behind him was fellow first year player, Kyle Kuzma, who put up 30 (!) points in the championship game, and averaged 21.9 points per game throughout.
But there was another player who’s game spoke just as loudly as the others around him, even if fans, the press, and social media didn’t take as much notice. Vander Blue, the former-Marquette guard played at the top of his game in all eight appearances, proving why he won the 2016-17 NBA D-League MVP award.
Yet, it’s not surprising that Blue didn’t get the recognition he deserves. That’s how it’s been since he was a instrumental part to the 2012-13 Marquette team that reached the Elite Eight, after going 26-9 and 14-4 in the Big East. Even the two years prior, when Blue was impressing as a freshman and sophomore, he was overshadowed by other athletes.
While Blue was working his hardest on and off of the court, his teammates, namely Jimmy Butler, Jae Crowder, Darius Johnson-Odom, and Jamil Wilson, were getting more attention from the media and NBA scouts. And for good reason.
Each of them would go on to play in The Association, as Butler became a perennial All-Star, but Blue’s skills and work ethic are definitely on par with the other three.
Once again, he was overlooked, going undrafted in the 2013 NBA Draft, before bouncing around the NBA D-League, and various NBA Summer League teams. But in 2014-15, it seemed he had finally found a home, signing with the Los Angeles D-Fenders. He quickly became a D-League All-Star, notching appearances in three straight seasons (2015-2017), earning All-NBA D-League First Team honors twice (2016-2017), and going for 24.8 points per game en route to the 2017 D-League MVP award.
Blue was third in the league in scoring average, while also adding 5.1 boards, 3.0 assists, and a team-high 1.6 steals per night. He helped the D-Fenders go 34-16, while scoring over 30 points 10 times, and reaching the 40-point plateau on two separate occasions. On March 29, he dropped a season-high 41 points in a 139-132 victory.
So why, after all he has accomplished, is Blue still hidden amongst his peers? I’m not trying to sell you on the idea that he should be an NBA starter, but after posting 15.0 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 3.0 assists in the Summer League, he should definitely earn a role on the upcoming 2017-18 Lakers’ squad.
Blue has been a hidden gem for the majority of his career.
It’s time for people to start taking notice of him, because there is a spot for him in this league. He has earned the right to compete for playing time, day in and day out in the NBA.
Photo Credit: NBA.com.