Jordan Clarkson vs. Jeremy Lin, Two Years Later

When Byron Scott made the bold move to send Jeremy Lin to the bench in December of 2014 it made a lot of people wonder-and not for the first time- what Scott was doing. The Lakers went out and got Lin for a reason and now they were intentionally not playing him in the capacity in which he was needed. One month later, Scott inserted rookie combo guard Jordan Clarkson into the starting lineup. In effect, Clarkson took Lin’s place. Wayne Ellington moved in as the starting shooting guard and that’s pretty much how it stood until the end of the season.

One year later, Wayne Ellington was with the Brooklyn Nets, a bench player. Jeremy Lin was with the Charlotte Hornets, a bench player having a resurgent year. And Jordan Clarkson, the second round pick of the Wizards who the Lakers bought on draft night, was the Lakers starting shooting guard. Both Clarkson and Lin were free agents in the summer of 2016.

Clarkson signed a $50 million contract to stay with the Lakers. Jeremy Lin inked a deal with the Brooklyn Nets for three years and $38 million.

In 2016-17, the Lakers and Nets have both been surprises but for different reasons. The Lakers because they are doing it with a very young core and a few veterans sprinkled in. And the Nets, who mortgaged their future and draft picks, have to piece things together with veterans. The Lakers have played 11 games and won 6. The Nets have played 10 games and won four.

2016-17 Points FG% 3-Point% Offensive Rating Defensive Rating
Jordan Clarkson 15.0 51.1% 36.4% 104 108
Jeremy Lin (5 games) 15.0 44.8% 31.6% 111 105

Jordan Clarkson is the Lakers most consistent driver to the rim and plays a significant role off the bench. The Lakers bench leads the NBA in scoring. Clarkson, on the athletic side and on the competitive side, often overwhelms his defenders.

Clarkson shoots 51% and 34.4% from three. He’s scoring 51.8% on pull up jumpers. He’s a scintillating 58.9% on shots less than 10 feet.  He makes shots when he is being guarding, 44% when the defender is on him, almost 50% when the defender is 2-4 feet away, and when he is open, 61% of his shots fall.

Jeremy Lin has only played in five games because of injury. In those five games, he has posted this stat line: 44.8% and 31.6% from three. He’s making 50% of his pull up jumpers. Less than 10 feet, he drains 54.5% of his shots. When he is being guarded tight he makes 44% of his shots like Clarkson. But when the defender is 2-4 feet way, his efficiency drops to 42%. When he’s wide open he makes 50% of his shots.

2015-16 Minutes Points Field Goal Percentage 3-Point Percentage PER
Jordan Clarkson, Lakers 32.3 15.5 43.3% 34.7% 14.3
Jeremy Lin, Charlotte 26.3 11.7 41.2% 33.6 13.8
2014-15 Lakers Minutes Points Field Goal Percentage 3-Point Percentage PER
Jordan Clarkson 25.0 11.9 44.8% 31.4% 16.9
Jeremy Lin 25.8 11.2 42.4% 36.9% 15.6

What did Byron Scott see in Clarkson as a young rookie that made him bench Lin since they post similar numbers?

Speed and a chip on his shoulder; Clarkson took being a second round pick very personal and it made him want to prove people wrong. Chris Paul and Kyrie Irving were tough competitors. In Clarkson he saw the same sort of attacking style. Clarkson had the ability to take Scott’s tough love approach for what it was- a motivational tool, not a character evaluation. Lin has often said that his Lakers experience was the worst of his career and what he meant was that Byron Scott made him almost want to give up basketball.

Unfairly, Lin has always been observed through multiple lenses. His Linsanity experience elevated him to a status he could never duplicate and it has always been a doubled edged sword for LIn who just wants to be a good player in the league. No matter what Lin did or accomplished, it was always magnified through those two months of sheer brilliance. Lin could never live up to those magical months in New York City. He would always bear the burden of being exceptionally spectacular once upon a time.  And because of the fame and attention it brought, Lin was exceptionally resented.

Even as his seven year career has had its share of ups and downs, Lin is best served playing 21-24 minutes a game. He wanted to be a starter and left Charlotte to start in Brooklyn. Once he returns from injury and produces a larger sample size, it will be apparent if Lin has the lateral quickness to defend starting points and still get his shot off. In a way, he and Clarkson have reversed roles. Lin starts. Clarkson comes off the bench.

In year three, Clarkson has never been better. He knows how to get to his spots on the floor. He has great chemistry with Lou Williams and rookie Brandon Ingram and they are the reason the Lakers bench is so dominant. Clarkson is not a reluctant shooter and has learned to control his speed.  He has the intangibles to be a good defender and the work ethic. He’s a thirsty player.

Byron Scott took a lot of abuse for his rotations but he did the right thing in letting Jordan Clarkson develop. The Lakers had to see what he could do. It was a hard lesson for Jeremy Lin who was looking for a fresh start. With the Rockets, Lin was a starter and then he was not. With the Lakers, Lin was a starter and then he was not. It was history repeating itself and a tough pill to swallow.

In Charlotte, Lin was signed to come in off the bench. There were no Byron Scott surprises. No sitting Lin on the bench for an entire game. No uncertainty and insecurity. He knew his role and was happy doing it. He went to the playoffs.

Clarkson’s role is different. The Lakers are rebuilding and Clarkson is their most trusted young piece going forward, their best pure scorer. He is a second round pick who worked his way into a starting job for the league’s most popular franchise. When the Lakers need points they know who to look for. Jordan Clarkson

photo via llananba