With the Lakers preparing for a Play-in game against the Pelicans tomorrow, there’s a promising update for fans eyeing the return of one key player: defensive-minded wing Jarred Vanderbilt.

Insider Projects Return for Lakers Defensive Stopper

The Latest on Jarred Vanderbilt

Vando has been out since Feb. 1 with a midfoot sprain and has had no concrete timetable for a return since then. Lakers insider Jovan Buha offered new insight on LA’s premier defender towards the end of his live stream on Saturday:

“We were told today that there’s been no official update. They’re not sure when there’s going to be an update. He did have a good workout, according to Darvin Ham. I’ve been told that Vando has ramped up his conditioning into light jogging, but he has not returned to on-court contact activity yet…Even playing in the Play-in seems unlikely.

“So if Vando returns, it’s appearing as if it’s going to have to be in the first-round of the playoffs on the early side.”

In 29 games this season, Vanderbilt averaged 5.2 points, 4.8 rebounds, 1.2 assists and 1.2 steals per game. The 25-year-old southpaw shot nearly 52% from the field, 30% from three and 67% from the free-throw line.

How a Vanderbilt Return Impacts the Lakers

Assuming the Lakers advance out of the Play-in and face either the Nuggets or Thunder, Vanderbilt’s return is a major boost regardless of the matchup. The Lakers have sorely missed his presence in the frontcourt, and his defense would be essential against key opposing forwards in Michael Porter Jr., Aaron Gordon, Lu Dort or Jalen Williams. There’s also a chance he could be switched onto the star bigs—Nikola Jokić or Chet Holmgren—and he’d be valuable in that sense as well.

If Vanderbilt is unable to return in the first round, expect the Lakers to continually rely on two other wings.

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Rui Hachimura has thrived as a starter, averaging 13.6 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.2 assists on .537/.422/.739 splits. He has boasted 16.2 points per game as a starter after the All-Star break, doing so on 56% shooting from the field and 45% from deep. Veteran Taurean Prince has also stepped up at times despite moving back to the bench. In 29 games with the second unit, he put up 7.8 points on 47% shooting from the field and 43% from distance. In LA’s win over Cleveland, Prince notably recorded 18 points (7/9 FG, 4/5 3PT) in 20 minutes as a reserve.

Both Hachimura and Prince have shouldered the load alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis up front, and they will keep being called upon regardless of Vando’s health when he returns.


Still, the possibility of Vanderbilt returning next week is exciting, and it provides some relief for Laker fans stressed about the team’s postseason push.

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