It was only a couple of weeks ago that the Minnesota Timberwolves re-signed Jarred Vanderbilt to a three-year, $13.8 million deal in restricted free agency.
On its face, this deal seems fairly run-of-the-mill. However, Vanderbilt is arguably one of the most underrated players in the league and could complete this new-look Wolves roster.
Minnesota Timberwolves: Jarred Vanderbilt could be the final piece to the puzzle
It’s easy to be distracted by Vanderbilt’s modest stat line from a year ago. He averaged just 5.4 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.2 assists per game last season and didn’t exactly draw much attention, especially with Karl-Anthony Towns’ challenging season and Anthony Edwards’ rookie breakout attracting the lion’s share of attention on the Timberwolves.
But every team in the league would love to have a guy like Vanderbilt on their roster.
Standing at 6-foot-9 and 214 pounds, Vanderbilt is an elite dual-threat defender. He’s light and laterally-agile enough to stick with primary ball-handlers on the perimeter, but his height and frame also allow him to regularly rotate to the rim and block everything in sight.
Vanderbilt averaged 2.0 steals and 1.5 blocks per 36 minutes last year. He also possesses a 7-foot-1 wingspan, allowing him to disrupt passing lanes and generate easy points in transition.
Put simply, he has the tools to be an elite all-around defender.
His offense is admittedly below average. But he’s not expected to be a self-creating monster. If he can score in a complementary role, his offense will suffice.
In fact, Vanderbilt has shown flashes of becoming an effective complementary scorer, albeit without offering any threat as a floor spacer — he attempted a three-point shot only five times in 64 games last year.
Vanderbilt is a good cutter, which is an ideal skill-set to pair with Towns, who regularly hits cutters with his elite passing ability. Vando certainly has a lot to work on offensively, but the flashes he’s shown already in merely 92 career games suggest that he’ll be just fine — if not better than fine — on that end.
The analytics show how impactful he was last year, despite limited minutes. Minnesota gave up 5.44 fewer points per 100 possessions with Vanderbilt on the court, and opponents were 2.97 percent less efficient too with him on the court, per pbpstats.com. His versatility also means the Wolves could theoretically run him anywhere from the 3 to the 5.
There’s an argument to be made that despite Jaden McDaniels’ impressive rookie year, Vanderbilt should start at the 4 over the former first-round pick. Obviously, McDaniels certainly still deserves heavy minutes, but Vanderbilt offers more defensively both on the perimeter and as a rim-protector and they’re at a relatively similar level on offense.
The Wolves are blessed with defensive talent, especially at the forward spots, and if they utilize these talents correctly, they could shock people next year.
Watch this space.