Los Angeles Lakers GM Rob Pelinka knew he had to move quickly to save the team’s 2023 from colossal failure.
Part of the team’s turnaround can be attributed to one big three-team deal that Pelinka swung that eventually led to the team’s Western Conference Final run last season.
Jarred Vanderbilt’s addition, alongside Malik Beasley and D’Angelo Russell, gave LA the much-needed depth over Russell Westbrook’s big contract to make an inspired playoff run.
The defensive-minded forward got rewarded for his efforts with a new four-year extension earlier this summer but this year’s debut may not come in the team’s season opener against Denver.
A heel injury that’s sidelined him for most of the preseason may linger on into Tuesday’s regular-season opener as a loss LA can’t afford according to Erik Beaston of Bleacher Report.
Vanderbilt is a starter for the team and needs every rep he can get with James, Davis, Reaves, and D’Angelo Russell. He needs to develop the chemistry that was iffy a season ago and be able to establish his place in the lineup. If he does not due to injury, there is a player in Wood on the bench, ready to jump into the starting lineup the minute Davis decides he would rather assume Vanderbilt’s place at power forward and let the former Houston Rocket take over the center job.
Team chemistry will be vital for the Lakers’ potential conquest of the Western Conference as the Warriors and Suns both added new pieces to their formidable cores.
LA’s opening night opponent already proved the value of such chemistry as the synergy between a healthy Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray propelled the Nuggets past the Lakers en route to their first championship.
Vanderbilt’s absence in that sense will loom large as Los Angeles won’t quite get a grasp of their new-look roster without their rangy defender available to them.