For three years, Vander Blue has torched the D-League. Now, he has been recognized as the league’s best.
On Monday, Blue was named the 2016-17 Most Valuable Player, becoming the first in franchise history to receive the honor.
After competing against him for three All-Star seasons, the league’s 22 head coaches voted Blue — an offensive fire-starter and ballhawking defender — as the biggest adversary in the D-League.
“It shows that they have respect for me,” Blue said. “With all the connections and things that they have with different organizations and what they know about the game, it just gives me a better chance.”
That “chance” is a shot at finding his way back into the NBA. Blue has been called up twice — by Boston and the Lakers — but is looking for a more permanent home.
This summer he is looking to land some workouts with NBA clubs, and he hopes that the endorsement of the D-League’s coaches will help him get there.
“The main goal is to be back on the big stage,” he said, “so it means a lot that (the coaches) appreciate my game and respect my game to that level.”
The path from D-League MVP to the NBA has grown smoother lately, as the last two recipients — Tim Frazier and Jarnell Stokes — both recently found their way onto NBA rosters.
The D-Fenders also have a rich history of finding their players homes in the NBA, as players from Gerald Green to David Nwaba have worked their way from El Segundo to the big leagues.
And that pantheon of D-Fenders alums makes Blue’s MVP award all the more special for him.
“There’s been a lot of great players that have played for the D-Fenders,” Blue said. “A lot of guys in the NBA now. It’s an amazing accomplishment, man.”
Blue was far from short on accomplishments this season.
He is third on the D-League’s all-time scoring list (4,024 points), after putting up the league’s second-most points per game this year (24.8). While leading the D-Fenders to their second straight Pacific Division title, he also made a D-League-record 363 free throws.
Now this latest piece of hardware has his notifications coming in droves.
“My phone’s been going a little crazy,” Blue laughed. “My teammates, family, friends — everybody’s reaching out. It’s a good feeling.”