The Los Angeles Lakers have badly needed a lockdown wing defender since what seems like forever, but realistically, only since the 2019-20 season, when they could use the likes of Kyle Kuzma and Danny Green to throw at high-level wings for most of the game and then LeBron James and Anthony Davis as needed during crucial stretches.
Nevertheless, the Lakers’ need for those types of players was even more apparent this year, with Darvin Ham trotting out the likes of Patrick Beverley, Dennis Schroder, and Lonnie Walker to shut down opposing wings. The sight of the former two getting constantly roasted by the likes of Jason Tatum and Jaylen Brown was, well... slightly nauseating.
However, was is the operative word, as Beverley was shipped off in the Mo Bamba trade, and Rob Pelinka brought in Utah Jazz wing Jarred Vanderbilt in the Russell Westbrook deal.
Vanderbilt’s fit and potential was clear — you can watch my initial film study video on him here — but it’s been arguably even better than anticipated, particularly with how he went toe to toe with New Orleans Pelicans (and former Laker) wing Brandon Ingram, who has destroyed the team pretty much every time he’s seen them, to the tune of averaging 25.8 points per game when facing them (his career-high average vs. any team).
Let's take a closer look at that game, which immediately preceded the All-Star break.
Now, obviously, these are very early returns and there’s always going to be an adaptation period for opposing teams to adjust, but it was an incredible breath of fresh air to see the combination of versatility, IQ, and physical attributes that Vanderbilt displayed against Ingram.
Slotting him into the starting lineup and between LeBron and Davis creates a frontline that frankly no one wants to play against. Let's hope that change fuels a massive run of victories, which the Lakers badly need to get into the playoffs.
Dr. Rajpal Brar, DPT has a doctorate in physical therapy from Northern Arizona University, is a youth basketball coach at the U12 level and runs his own in-person and online sports medicine and performance business, 3CB Performance, in West LA and Valencia, CA in which he further combines his movement expertise and fitness training. Combining his background in biomechanics, movement science, and learning science - he consults in a variety of sports including basketball on movement mechanics and skill acquisition. Brar is additionally training at UCLA’s mindful awareness research center (MARC and analyzes the Lakers from a skills & medical perspective for Silver Screen and Roll and on his own YouTube Channel. You can follow him on Twitter at @3cbPerformance.