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Jarred Vanderbilt stepping into larger role and excelling with playoff-contending Timberwolves

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A second-round pick in 2018, Vanderbilt is starting to find his rhythm in the NBA.

NBA: Oklahoma City Thunder at Minnesota Timberwolves Nick Wosika-USA TODAY Sports

Coming out of Kentucky in 2018, Jarred Vanderbilt was originally the 41st overall pick. He was taken by the Orlando Magic but spent his rookie season with the Denver Nuggets.

Vanderbilt was then traded, oddly in his second multi-team trade, to the Minnesota Timberwolves, where he’s spent the last two and half years. The Wolves, who are starting to live up to preseason expectations, sit 7th in the Western Conference after not making the playoffs since 2018.

The 6-foot-9 forward has played a huge role for Minnesota alongside fellow former Wildcat Karl-Anthony Towns, starting 31 games and playing in 38. Vanderbilt has scored 6.7 points per game this season, but it’s been as of late that he’s really started to shine.

Vanderbilt has been productive, but it’s truly his efficiency that’s keeping him on the court. Last season, Vanderbilt shot over 60% from the field. This season, he’s sitting at 58.5% from the field, both well above the league average.

Vanderbilt’s efficiency and athletics help justify his career-high 25.6 minutes per game. He’s doing the dirty work, and he’s been able to help the Wolves win games. Also, the 1.5 steals per game in the minutes he’s getting needs to be mentioned.

The upside for Vanderbilt may never be that of a 15-20 point scorer, but he’s doing everything it takes on both ends of the court. Over his last five games, Vanderbilt has averaged 11.6 points and 11.8 rebounds per game, shooting around 70% from the field.

Arguably the best performance of Vanderbilt’s young career came in a recent win over the Houston Rockets, where he finished with 21 points (10/14 shooting), 19 boards, four assists, two blocks and two steals. Talk about stuffing the stat sheet.

That’s the type of production that’s going to get him more minutes, and after having what many would consider a so-so career up to this point, it’s terrific to see him putting in work at basketball’s highest level.

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