A lot of spotlight surrounding the Lakers has been shining on rookie D’Angelo Russell and forward Julius Randle most of the offseason and preseason, but one player that has flown under the radar is second year guard, Jordan Clarkson. We all know Clarkson’s story by now: a second round draft pick who exceeded all expectations and somehow landed on the NBA All-Rookie first team last season. A lot of people knocked Clarkson’s success because he played on a bad team, but that is just another chip to add on his broad shoulders.
Speaking of his muscular frame, Clarkson notably added around 10 pounds of lean muscle during this offseason. His summer workouts consisted of diet and hard work with the Lakers’ strength and conditioning coach, Tim DiFrancesco. In an interview, DiFrancesco praised Clarkson’s work ethic:
“He’s a true gym rat, so this does not surprise me. He has been working the sand hills pretty hard, too, so don’t be surprised to see his already impressive speed/endurance improved as well.”
And to no surprise, Clarkson has been playing really well these past few preseason games. He has been consistently aggressive and shown no hint of the dreaded sophomore slump. Clarkson is a natural born scorer who utilizes his speed and athleticism to be successful. Out of seven preseason games (omitting the last Thursday’s game against the Warriors, which he suffered a strained shoulder), Clarkson played six of them efficiently.
In seven games, Clarkson is averaging 13.3 points, 4.1 rebounds and 2.4 assists shooting a proficient 47.4 percent from the field in 24 minutes of play. Clarkson is also shooting a modest 33 percent from the three point line. In 25 minutes of play last year, Clarkson averaged 11.9 points, 3.2 rebounds and 3.5 assists while shooting 44 percent from the field and 31 percent from deep. Compared to last year’s numbers, Clarkson is improving in almost every statistical category except his assists rate, which is an aspect of his play that he should improve as the season progresses.
In the games against the Warriors and Trail Blazers, Clarkson shot a scorching 77.8 percent overall and 66.7 percent from deep. Clarkson was perfect from inside the paint and effective from the mid-range area, mainly at the top of the key where he operates really well.
His ability to keep his defender on his hip to either score or pass is becoming his go-to move. This preseason, Clarkson has solidified himself as another scorer for the Lakers. However, he should improve in his playmaking abilities. I would like to see him average around four assists per game. Clarkson should also become a better defender because of his athleticism and quickness, though it seems at times that he relies on them too much.
Clarkson is only heading into his second year of play, so he has a lot of time to improve and a lot of people to prove wrong. Hopefully he can heal from his shoulder injury soon, so he can start knocking off the naysayers one by one.
And get well, Jordan. We need you back on the court.