It’s no secret that the 2020-21 season hasn’t treated the Minnesota Timberwolves very well. For starters, Karl-Anthony Towns ruled out with a wrist injury after only 2 games. This forced Ryan Saunders to dig deep into the bench for frontcourt production. Fortunately, 6-foot-9 power forward Jarred Vanderbilt was waiting for an opportunity to prove himself.
Jarred Vanderbilt: The Next Puzzle Piece for the Minnesota Timberwolves
Vanderbilt is an energizer bunny. His speed and athleticism complement good passers like D’Angelo Russell and Ricky Rubio. In the pick and roll, he can leverage his speed to get behind slow-footed bigs for lobs or use his near 40 inch vertical for finishes over smaller players. He’s also constantly running in transition, making it easy for guards to find him downcourt for easy buckets. This amounts to 66.7 percent shooting on all shots within five feet this season, better than players like Wendell Carter Jr, Nikola Vucevic, and Joel Embiid.
Vanderbilt also has above average vision for his position. He is at his best passing out of the short roll. From this position, Vanderbilt has the opportunity to survey the court in front of him and hit cutters that shoot the gaps in the defense. He has also shown the ability to lay the ball down to teammates that are near the paint on his drives. If Vanderbilt gains the offensive ability to draw doubles, he should be able to find the open man, scramble the defense and develop good shots.
The majority of Vanderbilt’s value lies in his defense. He frequently combines his athleticism and motor to completely erase plays. In the paint, he can quickly get to his spots and contest well against smaller players. However, he is weak against stronger bigs. As he moves out to the perimeter, he becomes a little less impactful but is still quick enough to slide with some guards. This amounts to -7.8 percent field goal-against, good for second-best on the Wolves’ roster. This is only behind Josh Okogie.
Vanderbilt is also a fantastic rebounder. He consistently puts his near 40-inch vertical to use to rob bigs of their boards. From there, he can get the ball to a guard and take off down the court to finish on the other end. Also, he works the glass on the offensive end with Jarrett Culver to create second-chance opportunities. Vanderbilt can leverage his strengths in these spots to put the ball back in the basket on his own, or use his vision to hit cutters or outlet to open shooters.
Though Vanderbilt is a fairly straightforward player, he’s had a profound impact on the Timberwolves. Without Vanderbilt on the court, a few poor defensive possessions or a cold streak would easily deflate the team. Vanderbilt routinely alleviates both these issues. His constant movement makes finding him easy, and his energy is infectious even through a TV screen. Vanderbilt is currently leading the league in deflections per 36. This is one of the many signs of his effort on the court. When Anthony Towns returns consistently, pairing him with Vanderbilt and Okogie should produce some lineups that are at least average on defense, and hopefully, get the rest of the roster to buy into the high energy and effort style that Vanderbilt brings every night.
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