One of the more inspirational stories in the G League this season can be found close to home. Straight down I-4 in Lakeland is where Devin Cannady, formerly a two-way contract player for the Magic, has reestablished himself as one of the G League’s best shooters.
As you might recall, the 6-foot-2 guard out of Princeton suffered a gruesome injury while with the Magic’s parent club last season. On April 25, 2021, in a home game against the Indiana Pacers, Cannady sustained an open right ankle dislocation with a severe lateral ankle sprain after landing awkwardly while challenging Edmond Sumner’s layup attempt.
Some players never fully rebound from a major injury. Sometimes the reason for that is physical, where the body doesn’t react well to treatment. Other times, the mental grind is too much to bear.
For Cannady, neither was the case. Throughout his rehab, he was disciplined to the work while staying positive.
Now 13 games into his return following a nearly 10-month-long absence, the 25-year-old is playing as well as he ever has, averaging 15.5 points on 47.8 percent shooting overall and 47.9 percent from 3-point distance.
“I think the biggest thing for me is (it’s) a testament to you who you are as a man when you are faced with adversity,” he said recently. “Obviously, I wish injuries upon nobody. But it’s part of the game that we play. My biggest thing was just taking each day as it comes – the good and the bad. But ultimately, having my sights set on where I wanted to be at the end of it, which is at full strength, an ability to compete at a high level, continue to show my competitiveness, and my ability to lead into wins.”
Cannady originally caught the attention of NBA scouts while playing for Lakeland in the Disney bubble last season. He was named the Finals MVP after scoring 22 points in the Magic’s championship victory over the Delaware Blue Coats.
Just a couple weeks later, Orlando came calling and signed him to a 10-day contract. Impressed with his work ethic, positive attitude and shooting ability, the Magic elected to promote him, making him one of their two-way contract guys. His best performance came in the game before he got injured, tallying 17 points on 7-of-11 shooting overall and 3-of-5 from 3-point range against the New Orleans Pelicans.
Although he was waived shortly after his injury, Cannady continued to stay connected to the Magic by watching the team from afar and cheering them on. Consuming as much basketball as possible while away from the court helped him grow as a player, which in part is why he believes he hasn’t missed a beat since returning.
“I’ve just the slowed the game down for myself by being able to sit out and watch,” he said. “At the end of the season last year, watching a lot of Magic basketball and basketball in general. And then, getting to see the game up close and personal from the sidelines really for the first time in my career allowed me to just come in and find my spots, move the ball well, help the team win, and obviously when I have a good shot take it and make it.”
Lakeland Head Coach Joe Barrer has done a lot of exploring with different lineups lately, just as Orlando’s Head Coach Jamahl Mosley has done with his group. Among them for Barrer is playing three guards simultaneously. Some of Cannady’s minutes have come with Jeff Dowtin Jr. and Hassani Gravett also on the floor.
All three have NBA experience. Gravett was with Orlando earlier this season while the Magic were shorthanded because of the Covid surge, while Dowtin spent time with the Golden State Warriors and Milwaukee Bucks this season.
“I think it takes pressure off a lot of us to think we have to do too much – whether that’s scoring, having the ball in our hands,” Cannady said. “I think the ball moves really well having three guards. I think Hassani and Jeff are more primary ball handlers, whereas I am able to space and guys that guard me don’t help out too much, so it gets them opportunities to work in the lane. It’s just really good having guards that can play multiple positions on the floor at once.”
With Cannady in the lineup, Lakeland has the G League’s best 3-point percentage, are second in overall field goal percentage, are fourth in assists, and are fifth in points.