The absence of Jarred Vanderbilt this entire season did not go unnoticed by fans, players or Lakers head coach Darvin Ham. The 6’8 wing has the defensive versatility every team covets for their roster, big enough to take on most forwards and centers but agile enough to guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Steph Curry.
The Lakers had to play the first twenty games without Vanderbilt due to a left heel bursitis injury, but he is now back and playing a couple of shifts a night so far. While the rust is clearly there and he is likely not in 100% game shape, Vanderbilt looked much closer to his ideal self in Tuesday’s win versus the Suns.
The Lakers recorded a season-high 21 offensive rebounds last night, the team's most in a game since Dec. 2017.— Nicole Ganglani (@nicoleganglani) December 6, 2023
Anthony Davis had nine of those rebounds while Jarred Vanderbilt had four of those in less than 15 minutes.
The impact of having Vando back in the lineup man pic.twitter.com/GvJlceWFm6
He was a monster on the glass, grabbing four of the team’s 21 offensive rebounds, an area the team has struggled to be on the winning side of all season. Postgame, Darvin Ham talked about Vanderbilt’s rebounding prowess.
“That’s one of his superpowers is to be able to get us extra possessions,” Ham said after the Suns victory. “People talk about how do you rebound better. There’s drills you can do. We touched on it a little bit yesterday at practice. At the end of the day, I truly believe it’s personnel-based. Some guys just have that knack, that nose for the ball that’s able to track down, anticipate certain bounces and just have that knack for hunting that ball. The old term ‘They have a nose for the ball,’ that totally applies to Vando.”
In a game decided by three points, every possession counted, and earning extra opportunities to score was worth its weight in gold. Vanderbilt grabbing a few extra offensive rebounds is exactly the kind of detail he excels in doing and that is why his absence this season has been so impactful.
He may not be a superstar, but he slots perfectly with the Lakers superstars to do the dirty work defensively and on the boards to make sure everyone else can just focus on their best skills.
With Vanderbilt back and the team just about at full health the Lakers can finally find out how good they are as constructed and how good they might be in the future.
You can follow Edwin on Twitter at @ECreates88.