There’s a little something sliding under the radar with Los Angeles Lakers guard Jordan Clarkson, and it goes beyond him having the second-most bench points in the league this season (151).
Clarkson is averaging 15.1 points per game (up from 14.7 last season) as the Lakers leading scorer off the bench, shooting a respectable 50.9 percent from the field (up from 44.5%) and 39.3 percent from three (up from 32.9%). He’s also dishing out an average of 3.2 assists per game, second only to Lonzo Ball. All solid numbers for a player that President of Basketball Operations Magic Johnson challenged to win the Sixth Man Award this year.
And yet, the most notable stat? Clarkson is putting up better numbers than last season, with far less opportunity. His 20.5 minutes per game, are down from 29.2 last season.
So what’s the difference?
“I feel like last year was kind of a weird year for me, just in terms of figuring out my role,” Clarkson told Lakers Nation. “But this year, having this kind of structure, knowing that’s what I’m going to be, sixth man off the bench running with that second unit, it kind of gives me a little bit more comfortability.”
“Last year, I focused a lot on trying to score the ball and sometimes it would force me into taking bad shots, but this year it’s just about making the defense move, that’s what coach has been preaching to me. Instead of taking a good shot, sacrifice, and take a great shot, and that’s probably the biggest change.”
The Lakers overall defense is certainly a part of Clarkson’s success. Through 10 games this season (though a small sample size), the Lakers are ranked seventh in defensive rating, a drastic improvement from the dead-last Lakers defense we saw last season.
“I feel like Luke was more offensive minded last year,” Clarkson said. “But this year, I feel like we started the year off from day one of training camp and it was all defense, defense, defense, and so I feel like they’ve been forcing it more, and they want to see me take strides in that area, so I’ve been working to do that.”
“He definitely is,” Walton said about Clarkson making strides defensively. “What I’m most proud about with Jordan is that he’s sticking with it, because he was struggling in training camp, struggling in preseason, and he just kept working.”
Coming in alongside Julius Randle in the 2014 draft class, crazy to think that at just 25 years old, Clarkson is the longest tenured player on this young Lakers squad.
“I look around and I forget that some of these guys are really young, and I’m young myself. Sometimes you feel old, and sometimes you feel young, and it’s kind of trying to find a balance of teaching somebody, and then at the same time vibing with them and building the chemistry. It’s all new.”
“I think my facial hair needs to grow in a little bit more, I need some more gray in it, cause I feel like an old man now,” Clarkson laughed.
Magic’s Sixth Man Of The Year challenge still lingers as he watches practice from the sidelines.
“He’s like the godfather,” Clarkson said. “It’s almost having like having your uncle come to the game, coming to watch you play, you know you want to put on a show for him. He definitely laid the blueprint for the Lakers, for showtime, for all that, it’s definitely something that you want to do, put on a show and do well.”
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