If the Los Angeles Lakers are going to finally break out of the league’s basement in terms of both win-loss record and defensive efficiency, it’s going to take a team effort, with everyone on the roster committing to improve at stopping their opponents from scoring.
Jordan Clarkson hasn’t done the latter much so far during his young career, and the Lakers were nearly four full points better per 100 possessions on defense last year when he sat versus when he played, according to NBA.com.
For context, that’s about the same difference between where the Lakers finished last year while giving up 110.6 points per 100 possessions en route to the league’s worst defensive rating and the 20th-ranked Washington Wizards, who allowed 106.9 points per 100 possessions in 2016-17.
The Lakers will in all likelihood not end up jumping all the way up to 20th in defensive efficiency this season, but Lakers Head Coach Luke Walton told reporters after the team’s 105-99 loss to the Utah Jazz that he likes what he’s seen from Clarkson on that end so far during the preseason (via Lakers Nation reporter Serena Winters):
Luke Walton also said Jordan Clarkson is 'making strides defensively,’ and 'seems to care more about the defensive end this year too.'
— Serena Winters (@SerenaWinters) October 11, 2017
Clarkson was active on the defensive end Tuesday night, jumping passing lanes for two steals and serving as part of an aggressive defense that forced the Jazz to tie their preseason-high of 21 turnovers.
Making things harder on teams ultimately won’t matter very much if the Lakers can’t still stop them from scoring, but improvement is likely going to be gradual for the young roster. If Clarkson and his teammates all continue to commit to the defensive end the team may finally be able to be just run-of-the-mill bad on defense, rather than the laughing-stock status they’ve been regulated to the last several seasons.