Minnesota Timberwolves: Comparing Jarred Vanderbilt to the 2020 NBA Draft class

Jarred Vanderbilt of the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Photo by David Berding/Getty Images)
Jarred Vanderbilt of the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Photo by David Berding/Getty Images) /

How does Minnesota Timberwolves big man Jarred Vanderbilt compare to prospects in the 2020 NBA Draft?

The Minnesota Timberwolves acquired Jarred Vanderbilt as part of a four-team trade in February.

With the draft only weeks away, let’s consider how the third-year forward compares to other young prospects in the upcoming 2020 NBA Draft.

The Timberwolves are gearing up for one of the most important drafts in franchise history. The team owns three picks in the top 33, including the No. 1 overall pick after winning the NBA draft lottery back in August. The team’s scouting department has already begun collecting as much data as possible on the next generation of young prospects before the newly-appointed draft date of Nov. 18.

However, the Timberwolves’ roster may already contain one young prospect who will be looking to make an impact equal to or greater than any of the team’s upcoming draft selections.

Minnesota Timberwolves: How Jarred Vanderbilt compares with 2020 NBA Draft

Jarred Vanderbilt was acquired from the Denver Nuggets before the NBA trade deadline in the same deal that sent both Malik Beasley and Juancho Hernangomez to Minnesota.

The latter two captured most of the media attention and were immediately inserted into the team’s starting lineup. Jarred Vanderbilt, meanwhile, only played five minutes in a Timberwolves uniform before the season came to an abrupt end. Despite his lack of immediate playing time, Vanderbilt is an intriguing prospect for the future and will be given the opportunity to become a key part of the team’s rotation in 2021.

The 21-year-old power forward was drafted with the No. 41 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft after playing one season at Kentucky. Vanderbilt contributed as an energy player off the bench during his freshman season, playing behind talented players such as Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Kevin Knox, and PJ Washington.

Vanderbilt struggled to score, shooting just 42.6% percent but flashed valuable skills as a rebounder, passer, and shot-blocker in his limited minutes. Specifically, his rebounding at Kentucky specifically stood out to many NBA scouts as he collected an astounding 26.5 rebounds per 100 possessions. Vanderbilt’s ability to use his strength and athleticism on the boards helped to accelerate his career trajectory from being a college bench player to an early second-round pick in the NBA.

Playing time has been hard to come by during Jarred Vanderbilt’s first two seasons in the league, logging just 115 total minutes with Denver and Minnesota. However, at just 21 years of age, he is still younger than many prospects in the upcoming 2020 NBA Draft and has the potential to grow into a valuable player.

In fact, Vanderbilt projects very similar to many of the prospects in this year’s draft and may have been drafted much higher had he spent two more seasons at Kentucky rather than taking off for the NBA as a freshman.

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Comparing Timberwolves’ Jarred Vanderbilt to 2020 NBA Draft prospects

At 6-foot-9 and 215 pounds, Jarred Vanderbilt’s physical profile is a close match to 2020 draft prospects such as Precious Achiuwa, Tyler Bey, and Paul Reed.

All three of these prospects are at least 21 years old with similar playstyles to that of Vanderbilt. Achiuwa is the highest regarded of the three and could be an option for Minnesota when they make their second selection at 17. Like Vanderbilt, Precious Achiuwa is a liability on offense but makes his presence known as a defender and rebounder. He finished his lone season at Memphis averaging 15.8 points, 10.8 rebounds, and 1.9 blocks per game.

Tyler Bey is another intriguing prospect who is known as a strong rebounder and defender with potential as a scorer. Bey shot 53 percent from the field last season and began to show some extended range towards the end of his Junior year at Colorado. Unfortunately, the 3-point range is still a large question mark and may be detrimental to his draft value since he profiles as more of a small forward at the NBA level.

Bey’s stock is already lower than Achiuwa’s due to his position and the fact that he is already 22-years-old, more than a full year older than Achiuwa and the Timberwolves’ Jarred Vanderbilt.

Paul Reed is yet another prospect with major red flags on offense, but the reason for optimism due to his skills rebounding and shot-blocking. Reed is a polarizing player who is projected to be drafted anywhere from late in the first round to late in the second round. His physical profile and age are almost identical to Jarred Vanderbilt but Reed is often overlooked after playing three seasons for a sub-par DePaul team.

Reed’s defensive intangibles stand out after averaging 2.6 blocks and 1.9 steals, including an eight-block game against Minnesota.

Jarred Vanderbilt’s G League progression

It is hard to compare Jarred Vanderbilt’s college numbers at 19 years old against current prospects who are now two years older. His numbers per 40 minutes are similar but that doesn’t paint a full picture as to how Vanderbilt would have progressed as an older and stronger starter at Kentucky.

Fortunately, he has spent a significant amount of time in the G League during the past two years and his numbers there begin to paint a more complete picture of his progression. In seven games with the Iowa Wolves, Vanderbilt averaged 15.9 points, 12.9 rebounds, and 3.4 assists per game. He has shown an improved scoring ability in the paint and a willingness to shoot from beyond the arc, albeit to limited success.

If Vanderbilt was accumulating these statistics on a college team in 2020, scouts would likely be enthusiastic about his potential as a two-way player. He has showcased the ability to defend the rim, rebound on both ends, and even act as a point-forward during his playing time in Iowa. This type of multi-faceted skillset is invaluable at the professional level and looks to be more refined than the upcoming draft prospects.

Vanderbilt is more athletically gifted than Reed and offers greater rim protection than Bey. His overall profile matches that of Achiuwa in almost every way as an athletic power forward capable of impacting a basketball game in numerous ways. Outside shooting and turnovers are a problem for both prospects but these are things that proper coaching may be able to improve.

The Minnesota Timberwolves were intentional in asking for Jarred Vanderbilt as part of the seven-player trade in February, effectively swapping Keita Bates-Diop for Vanderbilt as an add-on to the deal.

The front office clearly sees the potential that Vanderbilt still possesses and it becomes even clearer when compared to this year’s draft class.

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Several mock drafts are currently projecting Precious Achiuwa to Minnesota at No. 17 but the Timberwolves may already have a young power forward prospect equal to a top-20 selection in the 2020 Draft.