76ers trade rumors: Jarred Vanderbilt could fortify frontcourt reserves

Jarred Vanderbilt, 76ers rumors Mandatory Credit: Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports
Jarred Vanderbilt, 76ers rumors Mandatory Credit: Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports /

The Philadelphia 76ers want to reinforce the backup center spot in advance of the NBA’s Feb. 9 trade deadline. According to Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports, the Sixers are tied heavily to Utah Jazz tweener Jarred Vanderbilt.

Normally the word “tweener” carries a negative connotation, but in Vanderbilt’s case it’s meant as a complement. He is more naturally inclined toward the power forward position, but he can absolutely handle minutes at the five due to his rim protection instincts and tireless competitive streak on the defensive end.

Jarred Vanderbilt would drastically improve the 76ers’ frontcourt

At 6-foot-9, Vanderbilt wields a 7-foot-1 wingspan and 214 pounds of muscle. He would be undersized in certain matchups, but the Sixers would also have the luxury of playing him alongside Joel Embiid at times. Once the playoffs arrive, it’s not difficult to imagine a successful frontcourt pairing of P.J. Tucker and Vanderbilt in the non-Embiid minutes: Tucker providing girth and stalwart on-ball defense in the post, while Vanderbilt roams around for steals and blocks.

Vanderbilt is only 23 years old and under contract through next season, for $4.7 million. That’s a bargain-bin contract, and would land similarly in the vein of De’Anthony Melton. The more affordable, young two-way players the Sixers’ front office can acquire, the better.

One has to imagine Vanderbilt would pair fruitfully with Embiid and Harden. He’s not much of a shooter, but his numbers have improved notably this season (33.3 percent on 1.1 attempts per game from deep). Even if defenses aren’t really paying attention, however, Vando can contribute amply as a screener and cutter, constantly making himself available for mid-range jumpers or finishes at the rim.

The Sixers have found plenty of success playing Matisse Thybulle this season, another non-shooter. Vando provides similarly disruptive defense, albeit at a different position, while his impact on the glass would be deeply felt by a Sixers team that has too often struggled to control rebounds and earn extra possessions.

There’s a lot to like about Vanderbilt’s fit, be it in the small-ball five role or otherwise. He’s a non-stop effort machine. He influences winning on a nightly basis by sheer force of will. He has all the intangibles coaches love and enough skill to get by offensively, despite his limitations as a shooter. The Sixers would be lucky to have him.

So, what might it cost? Well, the Sixers can’t offer a first-round pick until 2029. Perhaps a protected pick that far into the future, when possibly Embiid and definitely Harden will be out of the picture, would intrigue the Jazz. The Sixers also have Matisse Thybulle, Jaden Springer, Paul Reed, and Shake Milton, all of whom qualify on some level as interesting young talent.

Vanderbilt’s contract is affordable and easy to match. If the Sixers plan to build the package around draft capital, it could be as simple as sending out Danuel House Jr. or Furkan Korkmaz as salary filler. That said, it would not surprise whatsoever if Vanderbilt is the centerpiece of the long-time-coming Thybulle trade.

Ultimately, the Sixers fanbase is in wait-and-see mode right now. Vanderbilt will have plenty of suitors around the association and there are lower-cost options Philadelphia could consider. We’ll know by Feb. 9.