February’s blockbuster Russell Westbrook trade was a win in multiple ways for the Los Angeles Lakers.
For one, they rid themselves of a player that is still a good one, but also a vastly flawed one that simply didn’t fit in with their personnel.
For another, they acquired a replacement in D’Angelo Russell who is actually a good 3-point shooter, a good facilitator and someone who is pretty good in transition, but sans Westbrook’s propensity to commit turnovers and make unforced errors.
But it got even better, as the trade also netted Los Angeles power forward Jarred Vanderbilt.
Vanderbilt quickly emerged as a versatile wing defender who has taken on the likes of Brandon Ingram, Luka Doncic, Julius Randle and Devin Booker. Even though he hasn’t contained all of those stars, he has certainly made them work hard to get their points.
Perhaps Vanderbilt’s value to the Lakers cannot be measured by the numbers and shooting percentages those stars put up against him, but these two numbers are a good indicator of how he has helped them.
Overall defensive rating
Vanderbilt came off the bench in his first two games with the Purple and Gold, but he has been in the starting lineup ever since, giving him 15 straight games as a starter so far.
In those 15 games, a span which started on Feb. 15 versus Ingram’s New Orleans Pelicans, the Lakers have led the NBA in defensive rating at 109.5.
In seven of those 15 contests, they have held their opponent to 110 points or fewer, and overall, they’re 10-5 in those games.
Defensive rating with Vanderbilt and Anthony Davis on the court
But an even more glaring stat shows L.A.’s newfound defensive prowess when Vanderbilt shares the court with Anthony Davis.
According to Cleaning The Glass, such lineups have a 108.4 defensive rating, which is in the 95th percentile.
With Davis able to protect the rim at a very high level, Vanderbilt has the liberty to hound his man on the perimeter in an aggressive fashion, knowing that if he gets beat, Davis will be there as the last line of defense.
Vanderbilt is also a good rebounder, and even when he doesn’t collect that many rebounds, the fact that he boxes out well makes it easier for teammates such as Davis to grab lots of boards and give the Lakers possession of the ball.
Prior to his arrival in February, the team was having plenty of troubles on the defensive end. It appears those days may be over.