Jarred Vanderbilt’s improvements have been one of the most significant developments within the Minnesota Timberwolves that have correlated to success. He always had spurts of production last year, quickly becoming a fan favorite after wreaking havoc in blowouts. He was rewarded for his efforts, first by being placed in the rotation and then in the starting lineup. His offensive game has always been limited at all levels. But the constant is his nonstop energy and rebounding ability, which makes him valuable on the floor.
However, the most significant difference this season is how Vando has gone from an offensive black hole to a versatile piece off the ball who helps others. This development started at the beginning of the season when teams began to lay off Vando and double-team KAT more frequently on post touches. Vanderbilt is one of the lowest usage players on the Wolves and cannot stretch the floor consistently. Therefore, he needed to be included near the ball in some way to take the focus off of his teammates.
He’s done so by mastering his ability as a cutter. If defenders run off him, he is wide open for an offensive rebound. Specifically, it combines the shot creation and shot selection of D’Angelo Russell with Vanderbilt. They have an 18.3 net rating together, illuminating how well they fit with Anthony Edwards, Patrick Beverley, and KAT in the starting and closing lineups.
Cutter and Clean Up Man
If you have a team of three high-usage players, you must have selfless teammates around them to fill in the gaps. Vando fits in perfectly as a player who can occupy those gaps. He complements the offense with his rim-running and by attacking the offensive glass.
If the players pulling their weight defensively for the entire team can at least have some impact offensively, it’s a huge step to fitting with the rest of the lineup. It’s something we have seen from the depth this season, and it’s especially true for Vanderbilt. He’s done it through limited touches, impacting the game as a roll man, and it’s resulted in more playtime and a more prominent role.
Vanderbilt is seventh in the league in cut percentage (31.6%), according to NBA.com. His role as a cutter is a simple way to incorporate him into the offense. His touch around the rim isn’t amazing, but Chris Finch deserves credit for finding a way for him to carve out a role as a two-way player.
Match this with Karl-Anthony Towns’ outside scoring ability, DLo’s passing creativity, and Vanderbilt’s tenacious rebounding with lackadaisical boxing out in the NBA, and you have a seamless fit.
More Improvements to Come?
The great part about this development is Vando can slowly work on his finishing skills around the rim. He has good enough athleticism to be a lob threat and good touch with his left hand. The issue is the right hand, and he can only score with layups and dunks.
If he can continue to work on not favoring his dominant left hand and using his right when it’s better to evade shot blockers, it will make life easier. And if he could be more of a lob threat from DLo, it could make him more of an offensive threat. DLo had past success with Jarrett Allen, a bona fide lob threat, and could translate skills over to this:
It’s worth noting that many of the team’s best three-point shooters like Malik Beasley and Russell have shot below their career percentages from three. If they can start hitting more, it only makes Vando more effective as a roller.
That would be a major win for the Timberwolves because he is on a team-friendly contract (3-years, $13.1 million), ranking him 8th overall on the roster. The supreme value is already there, the work ethic is living up to his V8 engine nickname, and consistent play will always hold down this team. If a couple of traits can be tinkered with to make his offensive game even more versatile as an off-ball player, the offense will be much easier all around for KAT, Ant, and DLo.