Jarred Vanderbilt is not a household name in the NBA. He was drafted in the second round of the 2018 draft by the Orlando Magic and traded to the Denver Nuggets on draft night.
He played only 28 games in his first two seasons, mostly in the G League, due to injuries and lack of opportunities. He was traded again to the Minnesota Timberwolves in February 2020, where he showed some flashes of potential as a versatile defender and rebounder.
But it was not until he joined the Los Angeles Lakers this summer that Vanderbilt started to turn heads and draw comparisons to one of the greatest role players of all time: Dennis Rodman.
Vanderbilt signed a one-year, minimum deal with the Lakers as a free agent, hoping to find a niche on a championship contender. He impressed the coaching staff and his teammates with his energy, hustle and willingness to do the dirty work.
He earned a spot in the rotation as a backup power forward and center, playing alongside stars like LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook.
Vanderbilt’s numbers are not eye-popping: he averages 6.4 points, 8.7 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.4 steals and 0.9 blocks in 21.3 minutes per game. But his impact goes beyond the box score: he leads the team in offensive rebounding percentage (15.1%), defensive rebounding percentage (25.4%) and total rebounding percentage (20.3%).
He also ranks second on the team in steal percentage (2.7%) and third in block percentage (3.2%).
Vanderbilt’s rebounding prowess is especially remarkable considering his size: he is listed at 6-foot-9 and 214 pounds, which makes him undersized for his position.
But he makes up for it with his athleticism, instincts and motor. He has a knack for being in the right place at the right time, crashing the boards with relentless effort and outworking bigger opponents.
Vanderbilt’s defensive versatility is also a valuable asset for the Lakers, who have struggled on that end of the floor this season. He can guard multiple positions, switch on screens, disrupt passing lanes and protect the rim.
He has taken on some tough assignments, such as guarding Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kevin Durant and Zion Williamson.
Vanderbilt’s offensive game is still a work in progress: he is not a reliable shooter or scorer, and he sometimes commits turnovers or fouls due to his aggressiveness. But he does not need the ball to be effective: he sets hard screens, cuts to the basket, finishes around the rim and creates extra possessions with his offensive rebounds.
Vanderbilt’s role model is Rodman, who was known for his rebounding, defense and intangibles during his Hall of Fame career. Rodman won five championships with the Detroit Pistons and the Chicago Bulls, playing alongside legends like Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Isiah Thomas.
Vanderbilt has studied Rodman’s game and tried to emulate his style and attitude. He wears number 91 in honor of Rodman, who wore it with the Bulls. He also dyed his hair purple and gold, the Lakers’ colors, as a tribute to Rodman’s colorful hairstyles.
Vanderbilt has earned praise from his coaches and teammates for his contributions to the team. James called him “a Dennis Rodman-type player” who “does all the little things that don’t show up in the stat sheet”.
Davis said he “brings that energy that we need” and “makes winning plays”. Westbrook said he “plays extremely hard” and “has a bright future”.
Vanderbilt is still only 22 years old and has a lot of room to grow as a player. He hopes to carve out a long and successful career in the NBA by following Rodman’s footsteps. He said he wants to “be known as one of those guys who can impact winning without scoring”. He said he wants to “be a champion”.
Jarred Vanderbilt is not a household name in the NBA yet. But he is making a name for himself as the Lakers’ Dennis Rodman in training.
Final Thoughts: Jarred Vanderbilt, the Lakers’ Rising Star in the Making
Jarred Vanderbilt’s journey in the NBA has been a challenging one so far, but he has found a new home with the Los Angeles Lakers, where he has shown flashes of potential as a versatile defender and rebounder.
His impact on the team goes beyond the box score, as he leads the Lakers in multiple statistical categories and has become a valuable asset on both ends of the floor.
What stands out about Vanderbilt is his work ethic, energy, and willingness to do the dirty work. He has embraced his role as a backup power forward and center, playing alongside some of the NBA’s biggest stars, and has made the most of his opportunities.
Vanderbilt’s rebounding prowess, in particular, is a testament to his athleticism, instincts, and motor. He has a knack for getting to the right spots and outworking his opponents, despite being undersized for his position.
His defensive versatility is also a valuable asset, as he can guard multiple positions and disrupt the opposition’s offensive flow.
While Vanderbilt’s offensive game is still a work in progress, he has made strides in creating extra possessions with his offensive rebounds and making winning plays for his team.
His role model, Dennis Rodman, was known for his rebounding, defense, and intangibles during his Hall of Fame career, and Vanderbilt is following in his footsteps by focusing on impacting winning without scoring.
In the end, Vanderbilt’s dedication to his craft and willingness to learn from the best will serve him well in his career.
He has the potential to become a rising star in the NBA, and with the Lakers, he has found the perfect environment to showcase his skills and develop his game. The sky is the limit for Jarred Vanderbilt, and we should keep an eye on his progress in the years to come.