One of the main complaints over the Chicago Bulls’ offseason is the lack of versatility added to what is a fairly rigid roster. Their top three players are all highly-skilled offensive weapons but very limited defensively.
The 6-foot-9 Vanderbilt (7-foot-1 wingspan) was drafted with the 41st-overall pick by the Orlando Magic in 2018. But he was traded on draft night for a package to the Denver Nuggets where he spent the first year-and-a-half of his career before being traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Minnesota traded him to the Utah Jazz this offseason and he could soon be on the move again.
Off the Hook
Vanderbilt, 23, was a part of the package that went back to the Jazz in the blockbuster trade that sent Rudy Gobert to the Timberwolves. Since then, rival teams have begun testing how serious Utah is about rebuilding.
Deseret News’ Sarah Todd describes Vanderbilt as a “rising player” with “still untapped talent”.
White is coming off of shooting a career-high 38.5% from downtown. But he has not been consistent and plays what is the Bulls’ deepest position at guard. He is also heading into the final year of his contract and there is no expectation of a new contract coming in Chicago.
However, the 23-year-old White has also had multiple coaching staffs, injuries, and COVID to start his career and could still blossom or be flipped for other assets if the Bulls attach a pick.
Vanderbilt averaged 6.9 points, 8.4 rebounds, 1.3 assists, and 1.3 steals this past season.
He isn’t much of a shooter, hitting just over 14.0% this past season and for his career. But he did shoot 58.7% from the floor and his production came on a usage rate in the 5th percentile, per Cleaning the Glass.
His efficiency differential ranked in the 68th percentile and was third-best among all Timberwolves players who played at least 1000 minutes during the regular season.
Vanderbilt is heading into the second year of a three-year contract that has just under $9 million remaining, per Spotrac. He would also fill an important role for the Bulls with his ability to play center in addition to both forward spots.
Much of those duties figure to fall onto the shoulders of Patrick Williams as he heads into a critical third season. But teams cannot have too many good defenders and the consensus has been that the Bulls still lack someone capable of playing that small-ball 5 spot.
Vanderbilt, who has started 97 of 138 appearances over the last two years with Minnesota, has plenty of experience doing just that as well as the bigger wing-type ball handlers.
Lineups featuring Vanderbilt alongside Williams, a healthy Lonzo Ball, the scrappy Alex Caruso, and the “underrated” Ayo Dosunmu — or perhaps even rookie Dalen Terry in one of their places — would be an opponent’s nightmare.
Chicago posted a combined plus-52.5 net rating in their top two lineups featuring the trio of Ball, Caruso, and Williams.
Add in that Vanderbilt gives the Bulls some added financial flexibility over retaining White this coming season and it might be worth it for Bulls vice president Arturas Karnisovas to include another future draft selection (albeit from another team) if need be.