Jordan Clarkson Is the Difference

Jordan Clarkson is the exception rather than the rule. A number 46 pick, he has played the second most minutes and has scored the second most points in his draft class, (Andrew Wiggins is 1st in both categories).  Jordan Clarkson has proven to be trustworthy, unlike Wiggins. And unlike Wiggins, you know what you are getting night after night from Jordan Clarkson. He is a scorer who can finish at the rim. While he’s not your go-to clutch performer, he is going to allow star/superstar Donovan Mitchell to rest without worrying the game is going upside down. Jordan Clarkson is a younger version of Lou Williams. He’s not as crafty as Lou but the end result is the end result. Clarkson is in the conversation for Sixth Man of the Year.

In a head-to-head against Andrew Wiggins on Saturday night, Clarkson the 46th pick  and Wiggins the 1st pick played to a draw. Wiggins had 13 points on 55.6% shooting. Clarkson had 14 points on 50% shooting. But Clarkson was a +12 and Wiggins was a -27.

Sixteen games in, the Utah Jazz are tied with the Los Angeles Clippers for the second-best record in the West, and the league as a whole. Their team motto “Never too high, Never too low” fits how they play. It’s a throwback to old school when the barking and flexing was for a reason and not for social media likes.

Utah’s offensive rating is 4th, their defensive rating is 6th. They are 2nd in threes and rebounding, but 22nd in assists, and nearly least in free throws. As expected, Donovan Mitchell is their leading scorer.

Jordan Clarkson is the second leading scorer for the Jazz. His 17.4 ppg is a career high, as is his 48.6%, 40.9% 3-pointers, 96% free throws, 4.4 rebounds. His offensive rating of 116 and defensive rating of 107 are also career highs. Before this year, Jordan Clarkson never had a PER higher than 17.3. This season his PER is 21.1.

Without Clarkson’s offense the Jazz would be treading water. When they decided to sign Clarkson to a $50 million free agent deal, they were betting on his offense, particularly since Utah has never been a hotbed for free agent activity.  Clarkson is in his prime and the Jazz got a good enough look at him for 42 games to see what he was going to bring  at the age of 28.

Honestly, the Jazz expected more out of Bojan Bogdonavić who is the starting small forward. Bogdonavić is shooting 37% and only averages 13.5 ppg. Against the mediocre Warriors, he scored the same as Jordan Clarkson but it took him eight minutes longer.

The eye test doesn’t put the Jazz in the conference finals, or even on the Lakers level. For the most part the Jazz are a defensive team that iso’s. You can’t beat Los Angeles without moving the ball. The Jazz’s defense is noteworthy but do they have the personnel and schemes to confuse Anthony Davis and LeBron James?

Despite 8 straight wins,  7 of the 8 Jazz wins have been against teams, that if they make the playoffs, will be 6-8th seed. The Pistons, Cavaliers, Hawks, Pelicans(2), and Warriors. Two impressive wins were against Milwaukee and Denver.

Utah is Clarkson’s  3rd NBA team (Lakers, Cavaliers). Clarkson has never left an organization with a bunch of people saying boy bye. He’s professional. He’s a team player. He knows where he fits within a NBA roster. He’s not a headache. Quinn Snyder’s ethic of take it one game at a time, be confident but humble, is a perfect fit for the best bench player on the team.

That’s the Jordan Clarkson way. Confident. Humble (sometimes). And winning.