Late last season, the Los Angeles Lakers went from under .500 to the Western Conference Finals by using a starting lineup that consisted of LeBron James, Anthony Davis, D’Angelo Russell, Austin Reaves and Jarred Vanderbilt.
Many fans have been calling for head coach Darvin Ham to return to that same starting five this season. But he hasn’t, and the reasons have been Vanderbilt’s health and the 3-point accuracy of wing Taurean Prince.
Darvin Ham points to Taurean Prince’s durability and 3-point shooting, as well as Jarred Vanderbilt’s health, as the primary reasons he hasn’t used the team’s starting lineup from last season — D’Angelo Russell, Austin Reaves, Vanderbilt, LeBron James and Anthony Davis — more.
— Jovan Buha (@jovanbuha) January 26, 2024
Why Lakers should put Jarred Vanderbilt in starting 5
Vanderbilt, a 6-foot-8 forward, went from a throw-in in last February’s Russell Westbrook trade to a defensive standout, hustle player and fan favorite. His ability to guard multiple positions while hitting the boards on both ends of the floor made him an X-factor for the Lakers.
But he missed the first several weeks of this season with heel bursitis, and it has taken him a while to fully get back into game shape and rhythm. But he may he regaining his groove, as he has had 12 points in two of his last three games while seeing his rebounding production pick up.
The Lakers seriously lack 3-point shooting, both in terms of accuracy and volume. Prince is one of their few legitimate threats from downtown, and he is shooting 38.5 percent from that distance this season.
Meanwhile, Vanderbilt has never been a 3-point shooter in any way or shape. While he has been operating more in the paint offensively lately, he can still be found spotting up in the corner at times, and opposing teams have been all but paying him to take 3-point shots. On the season, he’s just 5-of-23 from deep, and he has a career mark of 27.6 percent from that distance.
Los Angeles has been linked to many players on the trade market who could help rectify their lack of outside shooting. The one player it is most focused on right now is Dejounte Murray, a former All-Star guard for the Atlanta Hawks who is hitting 38.7 percent from 3-point land this year.