It’s June 21st, 2018, and the Orlando Magic are on the clock with the 41st pick in the NBA draft. They select forward Jarred Vanderbilt out of Kentucky and immediately trade him to the Denver Nuggets.
In his first two seasons in the league, Vanderbilt played just 115 total minutes across 28 games. With a raw skillset and a lack of a jump shot, it seemed that he would be out of the league once his rookie deal expired.
That’s not what happened.
Over the last two seasons, Vanderbilt has been one of the most valuable parts of Minnesota’s return to competitiveness. Despite averaging just 6.6 points per contest, Jarred’s impact shows up beyond the stat sheet. He plays with a relentless tenacity that no other player in the league can match.
Diving into Jarred Vanderbilt’s unique game, a perfect place to start is his monstrous January 9th performance against the Houston Rockets. He posted a career-high 21 points and 19 rebounds (adding 2 steals and 2 blocks) in front of his hometown fans.
Of his 19 rebounds, 6 were offensive. That’s the sixth time he’s grabbed 6+ this season (he snagged an insane 8 offensive boards against the Lakers on December 17th). At just 6’9″, Jarred out-rebounds most centers in the league (his 113 o-boards places him 9th in the league in that category).
That’s UNREAL energy. Coaches always talk about “wanting it more”, and Vando is the definition of that. He corrals misses like his life depends on it.
Let’s move on to the defensive end, where Jarred excels. He’s a good, versatile defender, and he’s a major reason why Minnesota’s defense has improved this season.
He picks up a lot of stocks with his 7-foot wingpsan. He averages 1.5 SPG and 0.8 BPG on the season, and his 2.9 steal percentage is tied for fourth in the league (the other players with a 2.9 STL% are Jimmy Butler, Dejounte Murray, and Marcus Smart. That’s elite defensive company).
He has excellent anticipation in passing lanes.
Take a look at this sweet chase-down block:
Jarred held LeBron to 33% shooting (2 for 6) in that game. That’s what he does. He spend a lot of time guarding the other teams best player, and he does so effectively.
Guarding Kevin Durant is no easy task, but Vando can do it. He plays him super well on this possession:
In case you were curious, the advanced stats recognize his defense. His +3.1 defensive RAPTOR is top 20 in the league.
Overall, Vanderbilt is master of the dirty work. He makes a winning impact with his hustle every night, and he is just as important to Minnesota as any other player on their roster (he is second on the team in total win shares).
Unfortunately, Vando flies under the radar in a league dominated by flashy guard play. Part of that is because of the way he plays, and part of it is because the Timberwolves are overlooked as a whole.
Jarred Vanderbilt needs to be appreciated. The energy he brings is a breath of fresh air in today’s NBA.