Continuing our look around the West Coast of the D-League world, we now take a look at the Los Angeles D-Fenders who are the actual little brothers of the L.A. Lakers (sorry, Clippers). The D-Fenders were two victories away from defeating the Austin Toros and wrapping up the D-League title, but that wasn’t meant to be as the Toros became champs. The D-Fenders will be entering the season hungry to get over that hump and become champions. The D-Fenders are an interesting team ranging from an NBA journeyman like Jamario Moon to a guy named Tristan Thompson who played at a Texas school (not the same Tristan Thompson that most basketball fans know). It all should add up to make for an interesting season at the Toyota Sports Arena in El Segundo, California.
Compared to the Idaho Stampede, who I previewed yesterday, the D-Fenders have an extremely solid backcourt right now featuring some players that have a great chance to be called up to the NBA like Courtney Fortson and Darius Johnson-Odom. Of course DJO was assigned to the D-Fenders from the Lakers, so there’s a good chance he’ll be brought back. He’d be a great offensive producer after putting up 18.3 PPG on 44.7 percent shooting last year with Marquette.
Meanwhile Fortson is returning to L.A. after being called up twice last year to Houston and the Clippers. He really made a statement after averaging 17 PPG, 4.3 RPG and 5.9 APG which is pretty wild when you remember that he’s only 5’11”. Fortson will probably be one of the many players called up this season on a 10-day contract, but while he’s with the D-Fenders you can bet that he’ll make a major impact.
If either one of those two guards are called up, the D-Fenders have a few options that they can go to help lead the ship. Tristan Thompson (guard version) was a standout scorer with the North Texas Mean Green and was solid in his rookie year with the Toros last year (8.8 PPG on .408 FG%). A few other solid backup guards (Cecil Brown and Kevin Kruger) are both coming back to the D-League after having an extended stay away from pro basketball. Kevin Kruger was a good scorer for the now defunct Utah Flash but took a season off to create a business named “Stadium Cribs” where they transform the inside of a baby’s crib into a replica of a particular stadium.
Cecil Brown on the other hand has basically been extinct in the basketball world since playing with the 66ers in the 2009-10 season. Brown was a productive player that year (14.1 PPG on .480 FG%) but will probably have a reduced role because of the simple fact he hasn’t played basketball in the past two seasons.
Where the D-Fenders really shine is with their forwards in the front court. They have a crew of experienced players like the aforementioned Jamario Moon or double-double threats like Jarrid Famous and Gary Flowers. They’re also giving a shot to Renardo Sidney, who as a kid was acclaimed as a top prospect. Early in high school he had problems with weight and illegal benefits he received as a high schooler complicated matters. During this summer’s draft combine he had 22.4% body fat and weighed at least 304 pounds. Sidney has apparently cut down at least 20 pounds since that time because he’s listed at 285 on the D-Fenders site so it’ll be interesting to see what type of impact he can make in LA.
Jarrid Famous is probably the player on the D-Fenders with the highest chance for a D-League call-up. Famous almost averaged a double double (13.9 PPG and 9.8) in his combined stints with the Mad Ants and Iowa Energy, and I personally thought he looked great when I was watching him this summer as part of the Milwaukee Bucks Summer League squad. After failing to catch up with an NBA team, Jamario Moon made the trek to the D-Fenders where he had a nice short stint by posting up 18.2 PPG and 7.6 RPG.
A few other front court players that should be on your radar include Darnell Dodson who’s a former Kentucky Wildcat. He was a teammate of DaMarcus Cousins and John Wall but finished out his college career where he averaged 11.12 PPG and 4.9 RPG in his senior season. Also take a look at Gary Flowers who did spend a short amount of time overseas and with the D-Fenders. He previously starred at Southern Miss when he averaged 18.8 PPG and 7.7 RPG in 31 minutes per game.
All in all this D-Fenders team is pretty solid overall both in the front court and back-court and has a chance to possibly make it their way back to the D-League Finals picture. The Lakers actually have a young group of players on their bench like Robert Sacre, Earl Clark and Darius Morris (when Nash returns) who could make their way down to the D-Fenders.