The South Bay Lakers might have a new name, but the team itself has been an expanding part of the organization for more than a decade.
Renamed after their Los Angeles region that includes their El Segundo stomping grounds, the South Bay Lakers are looking to continue increasing the standard of NBA affiliate teams.
In particular, recent success has bolstered South Bay’s importance to its parent club, as the Los Angeles Lakers boast one of the most decorated affiliates in the NBA G League.
What have they done?
The last two seasons have seen the South Bay Lakers — formerly known as the Los Angeles D-Fenders — rise to the top of the NBA G League.
The 2016 campaign ended with a trip to the Finals, where the team came just one win short of the championship. They won the Pacific Division the following season before falling in the playoff quarterfinals.
And while President Joey Buss and General Manager Nick Mazzella have built a roster made to chase titles, the South Bay Lakers have an even more important task of helping develop NBA talent.
They have done just that. Jordan Clarkson averaged 22.6 points and 7.8 assists in the NBA G League before getting an opportunity with the Los Angeles Lakers during his rookie season.
Jordan Clarkson (19 pts, 10 asts) has scored 47 points in two games with the D-Fenders this season. pic.twitter.com/kbHxmZsv27
— South Bay Lakers (@SouthBayLakers) November 23, 2014
Ivica Zubac spent a large part of his rookie year refining his 3-point shooting and defense with South Bay, putting up 15.8 points and 9.7 rebounds.
Plus, South Bay offered minutes to former Lakers like Jordan Farmar, Tarik Black and Anthony Brown.
Perhaps even more impressively, South Bay has been extremely successful at finding hidden talent and developing those players into NBA call-up candidates.
Vander Blue was named 2017 NBA G League MVP after putting up 24.8 points per game on his way to becoming the franchise’s all-time scoring leader.
🏆 @veezy_SQ swung by the office today to pick up his MVP hardware!!
— South Bay Lakers (@SouthBayLakers) June 12, 2017
Josh Magette led the league in assists for back-to-back seasons (2015-17), which earned him a two-way contract with the Atlanta Hawks.
Justin Harper was called up in back-to-back years by Detroit (2016) and Philadelphia (2017), while David Nwaba was molded into a call-up for the Los Angeles Lakers, spending 20 games with the parent team before later signing with Chicago.
Even those off the court have found climbed their way into the NBA ranks. Former head coach Casey Owens is now a Los Angeles Lakers assistant, while former head athletic trainer Nina Hsieh is now the assistant to L.A. trainer Marco Nuñez.
Even Lakers head coach Luke Walton has roots to South Bay, where he served as a player development coach by day and Spectrum SportsNet analyst by night during the 2013-14 season.
OFFICIAL: The D-Fenders have hired Luke Walton as a Player Development Coach pic.twitter.com/DH5nl0sbzu
— South Bay Lakers (@SouthBayLakers) November 5, 2013
Under the direction of Magic Johnson, Rob Pelinka and Luke Walton, the South Bay Lakers have become even more intertwined with their parent club.
Joey Buss, head coach Coby Karl and the rest of the South Bay staff are frequent faces at Lakers practices and were especially involved during the pre-draft process while doing some scouting for their own team.
The 2017-18 season will be a groundbreaking one for South Bay, which will begin play at the UCLA Health Training Center — a 120,000-square foot facility that will serve as headquarters for both the L.A. and South Bay Lakers.
— UCLA Health TC (@UCLAHealthTC) June 27, 2017
With a 750-person capacity, the UCLA Health Training Center will allow crowds double the size of South Bay’s previous venue.
In addition to watching players that could end up on the Lakers or other NBA teams, fans can also expect to see performances by the Laker Girls and the occasional appearance of those like Luke Walton, Larry Nance Jr. and Julius Randle, who have been known to frequent South Bay games.
Meanwhile, the product on the court is promising.
South Bay figures to have several players who helped the Lakers capture the 2017 Summer League title, including Alex Caruso, who signed a two-way contract with the organization.
Under this new deal, Caruso will be able to spend 45 days with the NBA Lakers while also shuttling to the South Bay squad during the G League season.
The Lakers also have another two-way contract at their disposal, which means that South Bay could be trotting out two L.A. Lakers this season, in addition to the likelihood that a few rookies get sent their way for more development.