February 25, 2024

It was anticipated that one of the Lakers’ standout qualities going into the 2023–24 NBA season would be their extraordinary size.

 

And it was highly anticipated that forward Jarred Vanderbilt, who suffered a heel bursitis injury, would play a role in that scenario. More than anything else, Vanderbilt’s presence was lacking in their sluggish 3-5 start.

 

The Lakers have won five of their last six games, in large part thanks to their ability make shots and make up for Vanderbilt’s absence. The Lakers were getting clobbered on the glass to stat the year, with a rebounding percentage of 47.5% in the first eight games. That was 24th in the NBA. In their last six games, they’re at 51.5% on their rebounding rate, 10th in the league.

 

They intend to play it that way this season. That’s why the Lakers should find their real season groove when Vanderbilt, whose return is imminent as he gets in shape, returns.

 

Jarred Vanderbilt, a valuable player in the Western Conference, was told by Heavy Sports that he cannot be replaced by LeBron or Anthony Davis, highlighting the importance of unleashing his skills.

 

Jarred Vanderbilt Preparing for Lakers Return

 

The time for the unleashing ought to be near. For the past week, Jarred Vanderbilt has been preparing for a comeback.

 

Vanderbilt is a versatile 6-foot-9 forward who can rebound and defend multiple positions, despite not being a particularly prolific scorer.

 

The Lakers acquired him from Utah at the trade deadline, and he averaged 7.2 points and 6.7 rebounds in 24.0 minutes per game.

 

This summer, the Lakers signed Vanderbilt to a four-year, $48 million contract, demonstrating their value.

 

Getting him back on the floor is tricky, though, because Vanderbilt was unable to do much while dealing with the heel problem.

“The biggest thing with (Jarred Vanderbilt) is because for so long he had to do stationary drills, just individually, he hasn’t had really any contact, obviously,” coach Darvin Ham told reporters last week.

 

“So he is just day by day ramping up and getting his conditioning, low-impact conditioning as well as basketball stuff. And just to see how he recovers from that day to day.

 

“So it’s good that he got green lit to start ramping up to be more aggressive with his workouts, but it’s just a day by day deal.”

 

Different Lineup Combos for Darvin Ham

Jarred Vanderbilt’s return will allow for various lineup combinations, including a transition to a five-out offense with shooters at every position. The Lakers aim to exploit their size and execute both styles effectively.

 

The idea—which was successful in the 2020 playoffs, when the Lakers won the NBA championship—was that they had enough offense with Anthony Davis and LeBron James, and really only needed a quality defense and the occasional shot-maker to bolster them.

 

They’ve got shot-makers, and have been shooting the ball considerably better in recent games. But they can get even better defensively. And Jarred Vanderbilt might be the key to that.

 

 

 

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