Activity on the free agent market starting July 1st will present the Knicks with the challenge of going young, more athletic and speedy on the wing. That fits Jordan Clarkson to a tee. The Lakers shooting guard two year pro is a restricted free agent. The Lakers are saying they will match all offers but the Lakers are also expected to make a run at free agent DeMar DeRozan, a Compton, California native who played his college ball at USC before being drated by the Raptors.
Getting DeRozan in the purple and gold makes Clarkson expendable. Clarkson and DeRozan play the same position. Clarkson’s max salary of $60+ million is not the paycheck of a backup. With DeRozan in tow, Clarkson is fair game for the rest of the NBA.
Recently, the Knicks, through sources, let it leak out they were interested in Clarkson which makes sense. First year head coach Jeff Hornacek saw Clarkson up close when he was coach of the Phoenix Suns. He liked what he saw. Clarkson is a gritty, tough, work all day, have something to prove, first step quickness, scorer. He hss a chip on his shoulder and remembers every person who was drafted ahead of him, all 45 players. He watches the draft over and over just to remind himself of where he used to be, who dissed him, and where he is now.
Jordan Clarkson was drafted in 2014, in the second round. He had first round talent but scouts weren’t sure what his position was. He played college at Missouri, a combo guard, but he didn’t have NBA point guard skills. He wasn’t an organizer nor did he have passing talent. In college, his scoring came and went.
The Lakers bought him from the Washington Wizards and when Kobe Bryant went down for good in January of 2015, Clarkson took his place, moving Jeremy Lin aside. Clarkson averaged 11.9 points, 44.8% shooting, was Rookie of the Month and was named to the first team NBA All-Rookie. This past season, he was a 43.3% shooter, scoring 15.5 points and sharing a backcourt with D’Angelo Russell.
Jordan Clarkson’s 2015-16 PER of 14.3 was higher than the PER of Aaron Afflalo, Jose Calderon, Lance Thomas, Jerian Grant, and Sasha Vujacic.
Clarkson was a favorite of dictator Byron Scott. Clarkson’s toughness and work ethic reminded Scott of himself. Clarkson is a serious player who wants to get better and like most young players his defense has a long way to go. When he was on the bench, the opponent scored less. When he was on the court, they scored more. But the pace of the game was quicker when Clarkson was in.
Clarkson is one of the fastest players in the league and he plays well with dominant players. He’s not a media whore, he likes his privacy. He’s not addicted to fame and it didn’t bother him the Kobe Bryant attention. He likes to be behind the scenes.
Clarkson figured out how to feed Kobe Bryant the ball and, more importantly, how to ignore Kobe Bryant and go for his own offense. His weakness is late game situations and ball control and making the right play but he has only been in the league two years. He is 24.
He made 42.3% of his contested field goals and 55.9% of shots at the rim that were defended in 2015-16. He finishes through traffic and contact. He is not a three point shooter in the Klay Thompson style, only 34.7%, but he made 47.7% of his 3-10 foot shots and he competed hard on every play, never taking a play off. When he went through a slump in March, he didn’t complain or pout. He has an even tempered personality who can take media criticism.
Acquiring Clarkson, a young player, will give the Knicks speed, and will be a nice fit in the Hornacek system that is guard heavy. Clarkson is going to improve; he has yet to reach his ceiling. He is a player that was supposed to be a no-name journeyman bench player but he found himself on the Lakers roster with Kobe Bryant as his mentor. He had a lot to prove, a challenge he relished.
During his rookie year, Jordan Clarkson’s work ethic and on court intelligence was so impressive word got around to Kobe Bryant, who by then was done for the year after shoulder surgery, that he should meet this kid. Kobe did one of his Kobe things, told Clarkson to meet him at an hour when most people are still asleep, when it’s dark outside. It was a Kobe test. Are you willing to do anything? Do you have heart and commitment? Are you tough?
When Kobe rolled into the Lakers training facility at 5 a.m., he heard the sound of sneakers. Jordan Clarkson was taking jump shots; he was already sweaty. He got there before Kobe. That’s when the Lakers knew Jordan Clarkson’s NBA future was bright.
Jordan Clarkson wanted to be great.
photo via llananba