Denver Nuggets’ Jarred Vanderbilt hopes to improve upon Summer League debut

by Alex Labidou
Nuggets.com Staff Writer
@LabidouA

LAS VEGAS – Shortly after the Nuggets’ 84-79 victory against the Orlando Magic Sunday night, Jarred Vanderbilt was asked about how he felt about his first-ever Summer League game. The 20-year-old became contemplative, realizing just how he’s come over the past few years. 

“It felt good. It was the first time I got to play a full game in the last two or two-and-a-half years,” Vanderbilt told Nuggets.com. “Felt good to get my legs under me a little bit.” 

Vanderbilt, a Houston native, was a five-star recruit, coming out of high school but injuries limited in his lone season at Kentucky in 2017-18. He saw time in just 14 games and averaged 17 minutes per contest. The power forward suffered an ankle sprain in his final college game, an injury that would affect his draft stock, impacting his slip to Denver with the 58th overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. He would spend nearly a year rehabbing to get back on the court. Once he was ready to play, he did so sparingly. 

Sunday was the first time in months Vanderbilt had expectations since college and he finished the game with seven rebounds, four points and two steals. He showed signs of rust, but there were plenty of positives as well. 

Vanderbilt is fast and agile at 6-foot-9, 214 pounds, and the Nuggets utilize him almost as a point forward, allowing him to facilitate at times. Vanderbilt’s impact in that area allowed Denver’s guards to have more freedom in attacking in the offense. 

“He was really good. We gave him the ball to [be a] playmaker and bring the ball up. He had good passes,” Nuggets Summer League coach Jordi Fernandez.

If there’s an area where Vanderbilt wants to make more of an impact, it’s scoring. He only took four shots and wants to focus on reading the defense more and not forcing plays.

“I know I was kind of hyped today,” Vanderbilt said. “The adrenaline was running, and I was moving a lot faster [than I normally would]. So, I feel like the next game, I'll slow down a little and I'll have [control of my] pace. Read the defense a lot more. Find ways to make plays for myself and my teammates.” 

Fernandez agreed with Vanderbilt’s assessment. 

“He has to slow it down a little bit, but one of his strengths is the pace that he plays with,” Fernandez said before adding. “His playmaking has been really good from day one.”

Although Vanderbilt wasn’t at his best offensively, he made an impact on the other end. At times, he was switched defensively on almost every position. He also was effective on the glass and defending passing lanes, collecting two steals in 25 minutes of action.

Despite Fernandez’s praise, Vanderbilt is determined to build off of his debut. 

“I felt like I showed a couple of flashes today, but I want to go back and watch the film,” Vanderbilt said. “Try to find more angles to score the ball and facilitate.”  

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