The Chicago Bulls missed out on Paul Millsap who chose to sign with the Brooklyn Nets. However, there are some younger and potentially high-upside options still available on the free-agent market.
Minnesota Timberwolves restricted free agent forward Jarred Vanderbilt is still only 22 years old and he could potentially offer the Bulls’ second unit a shot of athleticism and defense at the power-forward position. One Bulls analyst called Vanderbilt “the perfect free agent.”
Are People Sleeping on Jarred Vanderbilt?
Could Vanderbilt evolve into a player who ultimately gives the Bulls major minutes off the bench?
Andrew Miller of Pippen Ain’t Easy seems to think Vanderbilt has that kind of potential. Miller wrote:
And with some intriguing names still left in free agency this offseason, the Bulls do have options to fill what roster spots remain after landing Jones in this sign-and-trade deal. A name to watch in this regard for the Bulls should be the former Denver Nuggets and Minnesota Timberwolves 22-year-old power forward Jarred Vanderbilt. Vanderbilt has continuously improved his game over the course of the last three seasons. And he could be an intriguing reserve power forward for the Bulls that could play in either the second or third unit heading into next season. Although Vanderbilt didn’t get off to the most efficient start of his career during the 2018-19 season, he’s improved a lot since then. His improvement in box plus/minus highlights just how much better he got since his rookie season three years ago.
Vanderbilt is 6’9″ and only 214 pounds, but because of his age, he has the frame to fill out more in the coming years. Vanderbilt found his way into the Timberwolves’ starting lineup 30 times during the 2020-21 season. After getting limited playing time in his first 2 seasons, Vanderbilt averaged a career-high 5.4 points, 5.8 rebounds, 1.2 assists and 1 steal per game.
Those numbers probably won’t wow many people, but Miller is on to something with Vanderbilt.
Vanderbilt Could Be the Perfect Bench Player for the Bulls
If you take a look at Vanderbilt’s per-36-minutes stats (10.9 points, 11.6 rebounds, 2 steals and 1.5 blocks), you see more of his potential. What you don’t see in the stat line is the way Vanderbilt gets his numbers, both points and rebounds. He is a hustle player in a Hakim Warrick, Cedric Ceballos sort of way, though an underdeveloped one.
Because he’s only 22, there is time and room for growth. If you watch the video below, you’ll see, Vanderbilt is a scrappy rebounder who does a ton of good work on the offensive glass.
He’s a springy jumper who could really benefit from the transition game the Bulls figure to use more often with Lonzo Ball running the break.
With players like DeMar DeRozan executing the pick-and-roll as the ball handler, there may even be lob attempts and rim runs for Vanderbilt with the Bulls.
The Bulls got to see Vanderbilt’s activity firsthand when he went for 16 points against them last season.
If properly coached, Vanderbilt could turn into the kind of sticky defender who can make life miserable for opposing teams. If the Bulls can also sign a savvy veteran big to help to continue mentoring Vanderbilt, Chicago could find a steal with him.
The Bulls need to force the Timberwolves to make a decision on matching an offer for Vanderbilt.
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