Jarred Vanderbilt has not yet played for the Los Angeles Lakers this season but his return to the court may come sooner rather than later. Vanderbilt was cleared by team doctors to “return to play progression” on Monday.
It still might be another few weeks until Vando is back in the fold, which will give head coach Darvin Ham plenty of time to think about what he is going to do with the rotation once he returns. Vando is going to play a prominent role on this team and his minutes have to come from somewhere.
As a result, there are going to be several players in the rotation who end up getting their minutes cut. Here are the most likely candidates.
3 Lakers whose minutes will be cut when Jarred Vanderbilt returns:
1. Taurean Prince
This is the most obvious candidate to receive less playing time once Vanderbilt is back in the fold. In fact, there is a good chance that Vanderbilt is going to come back and take Taurean Prince‘s spot in the starting five.
Prince has done a solid job being a spot-starter for the Lakers but it certainly can be improved on. He has been sound defensively but has not added much on the offensive side of the court. Prince’s role is to sit in the corner and shoot off-ball threes, that is about it.
Vanderbilt may not be a lights-out shooter but he is not much worse than how Prince is shooting right now. He adds a much more dynamic defensive presence and is much more versatile in who he can defend.
2. Christian Wood
Christian Wood and Vanderbilt do not play the exact same position but the Lakers are essentially using Wood as a power forward in the current iteration of the rotation. Once Vanderbilt returns, Wood is going to only be needed in a traditional center sense, which will cut his playing time some as a result.
Wood has shot the three-ball very well this season and that has Lakers fans thrilled about what he is contributing. In the grand scheme of things, Wood probably isn’t someone who the Lakers want playing over 20 minutes a night consistently.
Although he has had flashes and has definitely played better than he has in the past, Wood still is not a great defender and he will be hunted in key moments of games by the best players in the sport.
3. LeBron James
LeBron James played 29 minutes in the first game of the season and Darvin Ham said that was going to be a trend. That trend instantly went out the window as Ham caved into LeBron wanting to play more. As it stands right now, LeBron is averaging 35 minutes a game.
The Lakers do not need LeBron to play that many minutes, regardless of how badly he wants to be out there on the court. Los Angeles needs to take the long-term approach with LeBron and not cave into him wanting to play 36 minutes in a pointless November regular-season game.
The return of Vando gives the Lakers much more wing depth and that should have a ripple effect that results in LeBron’s playing time going down to the 30-32 minute range.
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