Jarred Vanderbilt, Los Angeles Lakers power forward, was among the team’s many additions before the trade deadline this past season in February. The Lakers acquired Vanderbilt as part of the Russell Westbrook trade that involved the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Utah Jazz. The addition of Vanderbilt gave Los Angeles more depth and size in the front-court behind Anthony Davis. His impact following the trade deadline was significant. He started 24 out of 26 appearances following the trade and 14 out of 15 playoff games. His numbers didn’t show his impact on the floor, as he averaged 7.2 points and 6.7 rebounds for the Lakers last season.
The power forward proved his worth following the end of his first season with the Lakers. In the offseason, Klutch Sports CEO Rich Paul and agent Erika Ruiz told Shams Charania of The Athletic that Vanderbilt had agreed to a four-year, $48 million extension with the Lakers.
Jarred Vanderbilt Closer to Game Action for the Lakers
Update on Vanderbilt’s Injury Status
To start the season, Vanderbilt has yet to take the court and play with the new additions of the Lakers. He was a frontrunner to start the opening night against the Denver Nuggets before injuring his heel. He has been dealing with left heel bursitis (inflammation) for weeks. As time passed and healing developed, Vanderbilt was reevaluated by Lakers team doctors, who said he’s been cleared to return to play progression.
Lakers update on Jarred Vanderbilt:
“Jarred Vanderbilt was reevaluated by Lakers team doctors and has been cleared to begin a return to play progression. Further updates will be provided as appropriate.”
Vando has yet to play this season due to heel bursitis.
— Michael Corvo (@michaelcorvoNBA) November 13, 2023
The Lakers did not give a specific timetable for his return, as heel injuries can take longer to heal. Vanderbilt also has to work his way back into ready-game shape.
Vanderbilt’s Importance For the Lakers
Vanderbilt was a huge defensive piece in the push Los Angeles made following the trade deadline. Although, their season was cut short in the Western Conference Finals after an elimination at the hands of the Denver Nuggets.
As for signing an extension this offseason, Vanderbilt is destined to be a key role player for the next several years. The absence of Vanderbilt has hindered the Lakers’ hustle on the defensive end. His defensive versatility was a huge reason for the team’s success in the playoffs. It allowed Los Angeles to get out in transition, bringing energy and drive to his teammates. While Vanderbilt has lacked an outside shot, his progression and offseason work continue to improve in this grey area. Ultimately, his ability to guard the perimeter and the opposing team’s star players while switching defensively has made him a viable and valuable piece to this Lakers team.
The Lakers, understandably, have missed Vanderbilt’s presence on the court alongside Davis and LeBron James in the front-court. With Vanderbilt ramping up his progression to return, expect a jump in energy on the defensive end for the Lakers.