A Russell Westbrook trade in February turned around what had been a disappointing season for the Los Angeles Lakers, and one of the reasons why was that they received forward Jarred Vanderbilt in the trade.
It looks like Vanderbilt will be with the team for the foreseeable future, as they have decided to exercise his team option for next season.
Speaking of expected LAL moves, the Lakers plan to exercise the $4.7 million team option for Jarred Vanderbilt for next season, sources told ESPN. The 24-year-old forward will be eligible for a contract extension extension worth up to 4 years and $71 million starting Sept. 7.
— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) June 28, 2023
Vanderbilt, a 6-foot-8 forward who had played his college ball at the University of Kentucky, was a second-round pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. He had spent the first part of this season with the Utah Jazz before coming to the Purple and Gold.
At the time of the trade, he was a relative unknown, especially to Lakers fans. However, he quickly proved he could help solve one of the team’s biggest problems.
Head coach Darvin Ham started to assign him to guard the other team’s star wing. In a notable contest against the Dallas Mavericks shortly after his arrival, Vanderbilt had 15 points, 17 rebounds and four steals while harassing Luka Doncic, allowing Los Angeles to come from behind to notch a win.
Later on, the forward did a good job of guarding smaller standout players such as Ja Morant of the Memphis Grizzlies, and he was one reason why the team got all the way to the Western Conference Finals.
Until midseason, the Lakers didn’t really have any reliable depth at the forward position. But Vanderbilt, along with Rui Hachimura, another midseason acquisition, rectified that weakness.
As free agency is about to start across the league, it looks like the team has prioritized running it back while possibly making a smaller addition or two. Hachimura, Austin Reaves and D’Angelo Russell, among other current Lakers players, are about to become free agents, and the team will have to decide which ones it wants to keep and how to keep them on new contracts.