Jarred Vanderbilt was a player that many teams kept an eye on at the trade deadline in February due to his tenacious defense and the energy he provides whenever he is on the court. When the Los Angeles Lakers were able to acquire Vanderbilt, Malik Beasley and D’Angelo Russell in the three-team trade with the Utah Jazz and Minnesota Timberwolves, the consensus was the Lakers got a steal for what they gave up.
It was not long before Lakers fans saw the immediate defensive impact Vanderbilt had with his debut coming against the Golden State Warriors, guarding Stephen Curry. A 6’8″ forward who is agile with long arms and can guard point guards and forwards was the skillset the Lakers were looking for all season long with an undersized roster.
L.A. would go on to make a deep run in the postseason with Vanderbilt taking the tasks of guarding Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant and Curry once again before reaching the Western Conference Finals. The Lakers would then play the Denver Nuggets and would ultimately get swept. A couple of months removed from the series, Vanderbilt appeared on NBA player Theo Pinson’s ‘Run Your Race’ Podcast to talk about the Conference Finals:
“I think Game 2, we should’ve won or that was the game we had the best chance of winning. It was Game 2. We felt like, obviously if we won that game, it would have shifted the momentum. All you really need to do is to at least win one, obviously the goal is to win two, but if you win one and go back home 1-1, you’re in good shape. You know what I’m saying? You gotta take care of business at home. But yeah, we definitely felt like we should have won Game 2 and you know both games was close though, even though we did get swept. But, I think the whole series was still a competitive series, it was all decided by a couple plays, just pretty much at the end of the game and that was the deciding factor. You know for the [Nuggets], they play the same way all game and they got so many options and versatility and that’s what it was, they stuck to the script the whole game. They was playing the same way.”
The Nuggets’ offensive firepower throughout the entire series was remarkable and showcased timely shot-making throughout all of the four games played. It was hard for the Lakers to combat that with their offense not having that kind of superb shooting.
Getting swept was not the ideal ending for the Lakers season, but to even make it that far with the complete roster turnaround that late into the season is something to appreciate.
While the Lakers are a franchise that views each season as championship or bust, there is still a lot to be proud of and excited about moving forward with the moves the front office made this summer in hopes of matching up better with the Nuggets and making it out of the competitive Western Conference.
LeBron James excited about Vanderbilt’s contract extension
Vanderbilt was due for a pay raise with all that he does on the defensive side of the ball and he became extension-eligible this month. It seemed like a no-brainer for L.A. seeing what he provided despite his offensive shortcomings, inking Vanderbilt to a four-year, $48 million extension. LeBron James was among those happy for his teammate as he took to Instagram to celebrate the new contract.
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