NBA

Josh Magette’s return to the D-League is vital for the D-Fenders’ success

NBA D-League training camps are in full swing and while affiliates and recent draftees get most of the love, returning players are vital to a team’s success. One such returnee is Josh Magette, who will play with the Los Angeles D-Fenders in 2015-16.

Magette is a 6-1 point guard who now has three full seasons of professional hoops under his belt — all in different countries, mind you. Magette spent his rookie season in the Netherlands and joined the D-Fenders in 2013-14. He parlayed that into a deal in the Greek A1, one of the top international leagues in the world, where he averaged 7.1 points and 4.8 assists for Koroivos.

Rather than pursuing gigs overseas, though, Magette didn’t hesitate when the D-League came calling in the offseason. As he told U&M, his former coach, Casey Owens, was a big reason why.

“Coach Casey was an assistant with L.A. when I played there two seasons ago. He called me as soon as he got the head coach job and wanted me to come back,” Josh said about leaving Greek A1. “We have a really good relationship, so that made the decision a little easier. I did get some offers overseas, but nothing crazy so I figured I would give the D-League another shot.”

The D-Fenders struggled last season, finishing with the 3rd worst record in the league at 17-33. Despite being loaded with talent, they desperately missed a legitimate point guard like Magette to set up their more high profiled players. Vander Blue and Jamaal Franklin led the team in assists respectively, however, neither are lead guards. Blue, for example, is a scoring guard — one of the best in the D-League — and his mentality isn’t to set others up.

That isn’t a knock on Blue, it’s just the truth.

Other than being a perfect fit for the D-Fenders, something that’s particularly intriguing to Magette is their plan to turn games into track meets this season. “I think the scheme fits my style because I love to really push the pace when I play,” he said. “I’m looking forward to it, for sure.”

Expecting Magette to take a backseat role, however, would be foolish. When asked about him being viewed as a pass-first point guard, he hesitated as though I had hit a nerve. I like that about him. He’s got a chip on his shoulder and it comes across when you speak to him. He’s ready.

Besides, as he proved last season, Magette has far more to offer. He’s a smooth lefty who can fill it up from outside and he’s capable of picking defenses apart with nifty passes and floaters if they respect his outside shot too much. He’s not going to blow opponents away with athleticism or eye-popping stat lines, but his poise certainly stands out. As a kid from a Division II college, he understands what he’s accomplished has been highly successful so far, but he also isn’t finished improving.

“In the grand scheme of things, my pro career is something I’m very proud of,” Magette said. “I came from a D2 school and I’ve been doing this for a living for three years, I’ve been able to travel and I’ve improved each season with increased competition.”

The D-Fenders are stacked with talent yet again, with the likes of Robert Upshaw, Michael Frazier, Manny Harris, Vander Blue and Malcolm Thomas starting the season on the roster. However, as we learned last season, talent alone will not suffice. That’s where Magette comes into the picture, the glue guy that any team needs to reign in that talent and bring out the best in everyone.

“I’m excited about the guys we have with the team,” he said. “I was in L.A. for a couple weeks already working with Frazier and Upshaw and I can’t wait to get out on the court and run with those guys.”

Coach Owens has promised an uptempo brand of basketball this season and Magette stands to be the leader of the pack with everyone else benefiting from his savvy court vision.