This year was a very tough one to get through for Los Angeles Lakers fans. For the second consecutive season, the team was destroyed by injuries, ultimately finishing with a 21-61 record and good for fourth worst in the NBA.
Of course, the one positive that did come out of this season was the second-round gem the Lakers discovered in Jordan Clarkson. The Missouri product averaged 15.8 points, 5.0 assists, and 4.2 rebounds on 45.8 percent from the field in 38 games as a starter. He was named Western Conference Rookie of the Month in March, finished seventh in Rookie of the Year voting, and has a chance to make All-Rookie First Team.
Despite his excellent play down the stretch for the Lakers, he is still a rookie and thus, has a lot of room to grow. The Lakers view Clarkson as a big piece of their future and there is a good chance that he is the starting point guard at the start of next season. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t some things he can improve this summer to ensure he is at his best once the 2015-16 season begins.
So we asked our panel of experts, what does Jordan Clarkson most need to improve this off-season? This is what they had to say:
Corey Hansford (@TheeCoreyH): Jordan Clarkson has the tools and the work ethic to improve everything he needs to as far as basketball skills. However, the biggest thing I want Clarkson to work on is his strength and ability to absorb contact.
Clarkson is likely to play both guard positions for the Lakers, and while he has the height to play some shooting guard, he lacks the strength to hang with many of the bigger wings in the NBA. Clarkson needs to hit the weight room to build up the necessary strength and to protect his body after all of the contact he is sure to take.
Adding some weight to Clarkson’s 190-ish pound frame would serve him well on both sides of the ball. Defensively he had the speed to keep up with anyone, but often found himself being overpowered on drives or in the post. Offensively, Clarkson would be better able to finish through contact. He relied on pull-up jumpers and floaters a little too much at times and would be better served getting all the way to the rim more often.
There is always the worry that too much weight could weigh down Clarkson and negatively affect his speed and athleticism which is not something I want. Clarkson’s ability to play both guard positions is what makes him so valuable, and putting on a little weight will only make him better as a whole.
Russell Valenzuela (@RussVal4): Growing his game outward seems to be the natural progression. He’s already made strides and been good at the mid-range game. Being able to become a threat away from the rim as well would make him one of the better guards in the league.
His greatest strength is his relentlessness and ability to drive into lane at ease. Early on, he looked to get his floater going as it appeared to be his favorite shot. He was also able to show he can finish at the rim and cut through defenses, especially in transition.
Trying to defend someone who can score in multiple ways would cause some problems for opposing teams. Someone for Clarkson to emulate would be John Wall who came into the league with a weak jumper and constantly looked to use his speed to get to the rim. Over the last two years, his hard work allowed him to hit mid-range jumpers and threes to keep defenses honest. Wall is now one of the premier point guards with the added threat.
Clarkson doesn’t need to be Steph Curry efficient from long range, but he should spend the off-season working on hitting more threes. Since he has the ability to play off-ball as well, he will need to practice coming off screens and getting into catch-and-shoot opportunities as well.
Ryan Ward (@Lakers_Examiner): During his rookie season, Jordan Clarkson showed tremendous promise as a potential star in the making for the Los Angeles Lakers. Clarkson quickly became one of the team’s best offensive players after being named a starter by head coach Byron Scott and the sky could be the limit for the Missouri product if he’s determined to improve.
Although I believe Clarkson has already made huge strides in only one season, I believe there’s two things he should work on during the off-season: Improving his passing ability and three-point shooting.
Clarkson’s role on the team is not yet defined and may not be until the team is done making moves in free agency this summer. That being said, Clarkson needs to assume he’ll be playing both positions in the backcourt for the Lakers next season and perhaps for the foreseeable future.
With more and more time on the floor, Clarkson improved his skills with every passing game. The 22-year-old is already pretty well-rounded with the ability to do a lot of different things on the floor, but becoming a deadly shooter from beyond the arc and taking some tips from Steve Nash on how to distribute the basketball will only make him that much more valuable to the team.
Last season, Clarkson averaged 3.5 assists per game while shooting 31.4 percent from distance.
In 38 games a starter, Clarkson improved his assist total to 5.0 per game and stayed relatively the same with his percentage from deep at 31.1. Both areas can be improved even though he put up decent numbers across the board in his first season in Los Angeles.