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LeBron James, Anthony Davis talk about Jarred Vanderbilt’s impact

When the Los Angeles Lakers traded Russell Westbrook earlier this month, many fans were happy that he would no longer be a member of the team. But that was only the beginning of the story.

The Lakers received point guard D’Angelo Russell, sharpshooter Malik Beasley and forward Jarred Vanderbilt in the trade. While plenty of fans weren’t that familiar with Vanderbilt, they quickly fell in love with him once they saw him play.

Even though he is listed as a power forward, Vanderbilt quickly emerged as a standout perimeter defender for L.A. with his ability to effectively guard multiple positions. He did a good job on the New Orleans Pelicans’ Brandon Ingram on Feb. 15, and on Sunday, he made things difficult for Luka Doncic.

When he was the primary defender on Doncic, the Slovenian native went just 2-of-7 from the field, as his length, energy and effort were bothersome.

He was the catalyst and some would say the MVP of the Lakers’ comeback from a 27-point deficit to defeat Doncic’s Dallas Mavericks, 111-108.

Afterward, Anthony Davis talked about Vanderbilt’s impact, not just on defense but also on the offensive end (h/t Silver Screen and Roll).

“Very valuable,” Davis said. “Being down 27 (points), 14 (points) at half, and he comes out and sets the tone for us defensively on Luka, getting some steals, making him shoot some tough shots, his rebounding on both ends of the floor. He just started an effect for our group to lock in defensively.

“On the other end, he knows guys like to play off of him and make him shoot and he knows how to play off it with his corner cutting and crashing into the glass, getting us extra possessions. His value for our team, you can’t even put it into words what he brings and does for us. Having a player like that definitely helps us.”

LeBron James, meanwhile, described how Vanderbilt uses his reputation as a lacking offensive player to his advantage on that end of the floor.

“I think some guys in our league,” James said of Vanderbilt, “when you’re not great at something, teams are able to use that to their advantage defensively. They can either sag off of you or play off of you. Sometimes, you’re playing offense 5 on 4, whatever the case may be. His basketball IQ and his intelligence of being guarded this way for so long has actually used it to his advantage. Teams turn their head because they’re not paying attention to him because they don’t think he’s a threat (from 3-point range), goes backdoor for a layup as you saw in the fourth quarter with the reverse (layup). Teams are not accounting for him when shots go up so you saw eight offensive rebounds he had.

“His energy, his effort, he knows where to be on every single possession and he knows how to utilize teams not accounting for him as an offensive threat. That is basketball IQ in its own right and that’s what makes him the player he is.”

Vanderbilt finished with 17 rebounds, eight of them on the offensive boards, 15 points on 6-of-8 shooting and four steals. He has been a revelation for a Lakers team and fan base that has been starving for a high-level, versatile wing defender and energy player for years.

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Story originally appeared on LeBron Wire