Despite modest stats, Los Angeles Lakers power forward Jarred Vanderbilt has impressed so far with his new squad.
Through four games for LA, the Lakers’ 6’9″ starting power forward is averaging seven points on 66.7% shooting, 6.8 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.0 steals. Solid numbers for a guy who doesn’t shoot much, yes, but his importance goes beyond these numbers.
Ahead of LA’s second straight blowout win with its full compliment of new pieces last night, Vanderbilt spoke with Mike Trudell of Spectrum SportsNet of his fit a 28-32 club absolutely desperate for what he provides: defense all over the floor.
“I had no idea that I was going to end up here,” Vanderbilt relayed. “I had a feeling that I might get traded, but it’s always good to get traded with someone you’re familiar with. I’ve played alongside D-Lo and Beas for a couple years. So having that chemistry and camaraderie with them helps. Now that we’re trying to add to LeBron, AD and the rest of the team. It’s been great so far.”
“They make the game so easy, so I just try to play off of them… On the defensive end, just being able to take the relief off of them by guarding some of the better players, and just flying around and bringing that energy and effort. And offensively just finding the gaps. They’re two great offensive players — they score the ball and they pass the ball so they will find you.”
Trudell asked Vanderbilt about his two-way ability beyond a strict frontcourt role, noting his surprising passing skills and ability to guard smaller players. Vanderbilt revealed, in part, why he had those playmaking skills.
“In high school I was primarily a guard, I started out playing point guard, small forward. As I tried to transition to college and here, they kind of started exploring small ball, just me being versatile and trying to play all positions.”
Vanderbilt’s impact resonates well beyond his scoring output, specifically with regard to his defensive ability and that not-inconsiderable playmaking touch. He’s the sneaky-great new addition that just might be one of the most important pieces for the team down the season’s home stretch, given LA’s dearth of good wing defenders beyond Vanderbilt and Troy Brown Jr.