Boston Celtics: Why the Cs should look into Jarred Vanderbilt

Boston Celtics Mandatory Credit: Nick Wosika-USA TODAY Sports
Boston Celtics Mandatory Credit: Nick Wosika-USA TODAY Sports /
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This offseason, the Boston Celtics have been busy after finishing the regular season with the same amount of wins as losses and falling to the Brooklyn Nets in the first round. They’ve revitalized their backcourt, moving on from Kemba Walker and bringing in Dennis Schroder, Josh Richardson, Kris Dunn, and Yam Madar.

In moving Walker, the Cs brought in their old friend Al Horford and thus moved Moses Brown and Tristan Thompson to avoid creating another long jam in the frontcourt as they had last season.

The only areas the Celts have been relatively inactive in are on the wings, sticking with Romeo Langford, Aaron Nesmith, Grant Williams, and Jabari Parker to back up Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.

I understand and like that Stevens has stuck with Nesmith and Langford behind Brown, but given Williams and Parker’s limitations, it’s hard to argue against the Boston Celtics needing a better backup power forward for their best player. With free agency dried up, there aren’t too many choices out on the market, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any at all.

Meet Jarred Vanderbilt, a 22-year-old second-round pick who entered this summer as a restricted free agent but has yet to strike a deal with his home team, the TimberWolves.

Let’s look at what Vanderbilt provides and why the Boston Celtics should look at him in restricted free agency.

Offensive strengths/weaknesses:

Jarred Vanderbilt is a 22-year-old second-round pick from the 2018 draft that stands at six-foot-nine, and 214 lbs with a seve-foot-one wingspan and 40-inch vertical. He fell in the draft due to the raw state of his game, but three years later, Vanderbilt has seemingly begun to turn the corner with the Wolves.

Last season, Vanderbilt averaged a productive 10 points per 75 possessions on +4 rTS%. His bread and butter was finishing at the rim, hitting an astonishing 68% of his shots on six attempts per game, providing the Wolves with some efficient and aggressive pressure.

His athleticism was enhanced in pick and roll, acting as the roll man with KAT spacing the floor or even acting as a small-ball five when both Naz Reid and KAT were off the floor. Vanderbilt set hard picks and dove to the cup with pace, catching the dropped big entirely off guard and allowing his ball-handler time to either take the layup or lob it up to Vanderbilt himself.

Outside of the half-court, Vanderbilt ran the floor like a gazel, ranking 83rd percentile in transition plays last season in a dynamic Wolves offense.

Overall, Vanderbilt was an elite off-ball presence, ranking 6th in cut FREQ and averaging 4.9 offensive rebounds per 100 possessions, making himself available to his teammates and generating second-chance opportunities in the half-court. What’s most attractive about Vanderbilt is his motor.

He played his heart out for the 17 minutes he got per game. Around the rim, he wasn’t afraid to go for posters or emphatic two-handed slams, tallying 40 dunks last season. He reacted well to the Wolves’ pick and rolls he wasn’t involved in, often relocating around the perimeter then cutting accordingly to give his teammates an easy outlet.

As I said, Vanderbilt was an extremely raw prospect in the draft, but one thing that every scout noticed was his unique ability to pass the ball at his size. He hasn’t had much of a chance to sharpen that skill, but it exists and has bled through some of his film from last year.

In transition, Vanderbilt would often bring the ball up full court and initiate the offense, flashing some potential ball-handling skills for the future. When he was asked to pass the ball, Vanderbilt delivered with great speed, accuracy, and timing. He even played around with passing tactics like no-looks, opposite hand-passing, and live dribble passing.

As many compliments I could give Jarred Vanderbilt, he is far from a polished offensive product. He has no outside scoring game, shooting 20% from three, 18% from midrange last year, and 55% from the line. As far as I can tell, the lefty has no apparent hitches in his form, but he does look uncomfortable shooting the ball.

His lack of experience shooting could be the cause of this, but given how stable his form is, I imagine the Boston Celtics wouldn’t need to do much to help his accuracy.

Vanderbilt also has some finesse problems, a skill set lacking in many younger big men. When he puts the ball on the floor, the play could spiral out of control at any minute, and when he’s put in a position to utilize his non-existent layup package, he goes wild. That explains his 60% shooting mark on layups despite possessing elite size and athleticism.

As high as I am on Vanderbilt’s ability to pass the ball, he can be very indecisive when there’s too much to process. Vanderbilt maintained a 9% TOV% on his paint touches, almost 3% higher than his AST% due to his poor decision-making.

There’s talent there, but he needs more reps to hone in on it, and I could understand the Boston Celtics being hesitant to give him those reps considering they have their eyes on the title, not player development.