The Los Angeles Lakers have not enjoyed the red-hot start to the 2023-24 season that fans were hoping for. It has been far better than last season when the Lakers started the season 2-10, but the purple and gold have not looked like one of the premier contenders in the league.
A large reason for this gap between results and expectations is the team’s health thus far this season. While the stars have stayed relatively healthy (for their standards), the depth of the roster has been tested with several rotation players suffering injuries.
The most notable of which is Jarred Vanderbilt, who has not played a single game this season for the Lakers. Vanderbilt suffered a heel injury in the preseason and his return to action has taken longer than expected.
Thankfully, Lakers fans received a huge update regarding Vando’s status on Monday afternoon. While he is not ready to return to game action just yet, Vanderbilt has been green-lit for a return to basketball activities.
Jarred Vanderbilt’s injury update will be a catalyst for the Lakers season
Casual basketball fans who do not understand the intricacies of the Lakers roster won’t understand why Vanderbilt’s return is such a big deal for LA. Outside of Anthony Davis, LeBron James, and maybe Austin Reaves, Vando is the most impactful player to the team’s overall success.
Don’t get it twisted, the likes of Reaves, D’Angelo Russell and maybe even Rui Hachimura are more talented. But winning basketball games is so much more than talent vs talent and Vanderbilt is the perfect example of that.
Vanderbilt is the team’s best wing and perimeter defender. He has the versatility to guard anyone one through five on the floor and that has a massive ripple effect on the Lakers’ success. This allows head coach Darvin Ham to craft an assortment of lineups all based around Vando’s flexibility to move around the defense.
Fans have watched the Lakers struggle defensively with the likes of Reaves, Russell and Christian Wood on the floor. All three of those players are well below average defensively and playing them together has not yielded the best results for Ham.
Just having that one extra defender in Vanderbilt can make a huge difference. Now, serviceable defenders like Taurean Prince and Cam Reddish can step aside and take on easier assignments, which is only going to make the entirety of the team better as a result.
Don’t be surprised if the Lakers go on a big run once Vanderbilt finally does return to the court.