Lakers get huge Jarred Vanderbilt injury update ahead of pivotal Game 3 vs Nuggets

The Los Angeles Lakers are struggling to execute defensive coverages that will give the Denver Nuggets a constant headache. It was very evident in the first game of their NBA Playoffs clash that LeBron James and Anthony Davis were the only versatile personnel that Coach Darvin Ham had against the Nikola Jokic-led squad. However, it looks like this team is getting a big boost from Jarred Vanderbilt once the series goes to California.

Lakers Darvin Ham mentee Jarred Vanderbilt amid Nuggets clash in NBA Playoffs

Darvin Ham clearly needs Jarred Vanderbilt and his ability to play drop coverage while also being big enough to guard Nikola Jokic. A lot of optimism surrounds the defensive specialist’s return to the rotation in this NBA Playoffs series. But, there is no definite timeline despite the hope that lies within the coaching staff’s hearts. The Lakers’ head honcho even got real about a possible Game 3 return in his latest statement, via Dave McMenamin of ESPN.

“We’ll see how he responds to what he did today. And still, nothing is going to change in terms of new information. It’s just a day-by-day thing. And so we have to see how he tolerates the recovery process. He exerted himself at a pretty high-level today. So we’ll see how he feels tomorrow. We’ll just keep going day by day,” Darvin Ham said.

Jarred Vanderbilt was reportedly able to practice with the Lakers before their second NBA Playoffs game against the Nuggets. Apparently, this was one of the most intense and rigorous regimens that the squad has been through. Vando held his own and showed a lot of promise during this session. This might further solidify his return for the third game of their Nuggets series.

Notably, Vando has been out for nearly two months now due to a midfoot sprain. Once he makes a return to the Lakers, their personnel to defend Nikola Jokic gets deeper.

What are the Lakers getting in his return?

May 18, 2023; Denver, Colorado, USA; Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) controls the ball against Los Angeles Lakers forward Jarred Vanderbilt (2) in the third quarter during game two of the Western Conference Finals for the 2023 NBA playoffs at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports© Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
The short answer? Versatility. Vando is quite literally one of the few big men who can defend any position from point guard to center. His length allows him to be a perfect matchup for the two-time MVP while his lateral quickness makes him suited to lock up Aaron Gordon or Jamal Murray. The Lakers’ injured big man also has a fairly decent vertical which allows him to act as a roamer if Coach Ham decides to put Anthony Davis on Jokic.

Skills are not the only thing he has. Vando’s greatness translates into the stat sheet. Before going down due to the injury, he notched the highest production ever in his career. The Lakers big sank 66% of his field goal attempts to record 11.3 points in that span of time.

Defensively, he was also hitting his peak before having to undergo treatment. He ripped 5.4 rebounds straight out of the backboard. Moreover, his on-ball defense was so pesky that he notched 2.3 steals to go along with everything else. The Lakers are surely going to need him if they want a chance of making a deep NBA Playoffs run.

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