Lakers Report Cards: Jordan Clarkson
One word sums up Jordan Clarkson’s sophomore season: Regression.
If that seems harsh, it's only because I drank so much Clarkson Kool-Aid his rookie year that my stomach literally ached with each lackluster game that came just after I thought he had gotten on track in 2015.
The 46th pick in 2014, Clarkson looked to be the late-round loot Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak heisted from the Wizards front office.
In just 25 minutes per game in 2014, Clarkson averaged 11.9 points, 3.5 assists, 3.2 rebounds, and 0.9 steals per game. His unexpected stardom landed him a spot on the All-Rookie first team.
In 2015, Clarkson’s minutes per game increased to 32.3, yet when you compare his statistics from 2014 and 2015 on a per 36 minutes basis, his only significant improvement came in three-point accuracy.
Although he played about seven more minutes per game, Clarkson’s points, steals, and rebounds remained the same. Even worse, his FG% actually dropped despite his shooting better from three.
Most importantly, however, was that Clarkson’s per 36 minutes reflected poorer decision making in his second year. Clarkson averaged nearly twice as many assists per game per 36 minutes in 2014 than he did in 2015.
Part of the decrease can obviously be attributed to D’Angelo Russell’s and Marcelo Huertas’ taking on some of Clarkson’s distribution responsibilities at the point guard position. Clarkson basically went from the Lakers favorite only-child who got to gobble up every statistical morsel in 2014, to the forgotten sibling with superstar-hyped Russell’s birth onto the scene. Unfortunately, the forgotten child always does something to get attention, and Clarkson got his during a testy exchange with a female driver.
In addition, the Lakers atrocious shooting from the field certainly did not help anyone rack up the stats in the assists column.
Yet those two reasons don’t account for the simple eye-test that revealed Clarkson’s penchant for driving to the hole with the singular purpose of scoring rather than drawing a defender and making the right play. Classifying him as a two-guard this season versus point guard last doesn’t abdicate him of the responsibility of finding the open man and making good choices. In fact, minding that responsibility is what sets apart the teams at the top of the standings from cellar-dwellers like the Lakers.
What was equally obvious from his focus on scoring, was Clarkson's self-admitted lack of attention to defense. By the end of the year, Clarkson and Russell made Huertas look like the Lakers backcourt stopper.
Areas of Improvement: Penetrating and dishing. Keeping his man in front of him on defense.
Future with the Lakers: Clarkson is a restricted free agent. Coming into his third season, he would provide the Lakers with a shooting guard possessing true potential at a cap-friendly price. That said, however, the cap-friendly aspect of Clarkson could make him an attractive trade chip as part of a package to lure a disgruntled young proven star like Jimmy Butler from a team like the Bulls, who appear in need of a rebuild.
Overall Grade: C+