All though it was just a formality, Lakers fans were delighted when Jordan Clarkson was announced to be staying with the Laker for another 4 years. And who could blame them? The 6-5 combo guard came out of no where to be the steal of the 2014 NBA draft. While last year had D’Angelo Russell, a healthy Julius Randle, the last flickers of Kobe Bryant, the 2014-2015 season had nothing for 1st half of the season. Kobe, like last year, was very bad and couldn’t even finish the year with a torn labrum. But suddenly in a very non Byron Scott way, Byron Scott started Jordan Clarkson. And Clarkson shocked the basketball world by averaging 16.7 PPG 4.6 RPG and 5.4 APG after the all star break. Then last year, he improved hit 3 point shot, Clarkson averaged 15.5 PPG while shooting 34.7 % from outside, over a 3 percent jump. Like I said, no wonder Laker fans were happy when he re-signed with the team. However this year, Clarkson has struggled tremendously. but I still believe in him, and you should too.
For the past 15 games, Clarkson has regressed a great deal. Not just compared to this season, but compared to even his rookie.
As you can see he is at a career low in shot attempts from 0-3 feet, along with dunk attempts. This is despite him shooting shooting 59% from that area, a 5% increase from last year, although a 7% decrease from his rookie year. This is also effecting his ability get to the free thrown line. Clarkson is attempting a career low in free throw rate, at 2.2%. This is terrible for a slashing guard, and even worse when you consider he is shooting 83.6% from the line. Such an effective shooter should make it a point to get to the line. Instead Clarkson gets only 12.9% of his points from the line, a career low. Clarkson’s scoring also is hurting because of long distance struggles. Over the past 15 games, Clarkson has shot 29% from 3. Despite this he has taken over 4 shots from behind the arc a game, making up almost 30% of his shot attempts.
Clarkson is producing career lows in assist to turnover ratio, assist percentage, and assist ratio. In fact he is behind teammate Lou Williams, Jodie Meeks, Will Barton, and Marco Belinellie is assist ratio. None of those players are exactly known for their passing, while Clarkson is considered a combo guard. In fact Clarkson has regressed so much as a playmaker that head coach Luke Walton has watched footage of Clarkson’s rookie year, and asked him to get back there. This is even worse when you consider the Lakers have more offensive firepower this year, than the past 2, giving Clarkson more tools to work with. Before D’Angelo was drafted, many thought Clarkson could be the point guard of the future. While he isn’t a full time point guard anymore, those skills are still needed from him.
Why he will be fine
Here is the thing, all of the mistakes and the tunnel vision are mental errors. Clarkson has shown great work ethic over the past 2 years, and I have no doubt he will watch film, work with his trainer and Luke, and get where he needs to be. This is his 3rd year as an NBA player, and last year he switched positions, giving him a steep learning curve. The only way to fix these mistakes is to play through them and learn from them. Clarkson has also struggled shooting the ball, and while he opened the season with much improved defense he has fallen back into being a traffic cone. As for the shooting, I believe it is just a rhythm issue and adjusting back to the ball handler role off the bench . He is already hard at work to fix this, as he stayed in the gym until 3:00 getting shots up. When his shooting gets going, it will open up the lanes for him, allowing him to get to the basket more. When he gets to the basket, he can create for others more too, as the help defense will start to collapse on him. His defense fell when Nick Young, D’Angelo Russell, and Julius Randle got hurt. Along with a tough schedule and a bigger offensive role, I believe Clarkson may have been a bit worn down. In fact he has been much better with strong showings against the Cavs and Hornets. However the past 3 games with D’Angelo, Young, and Julius back he still has not been great. I think a trip to film room will help him out with missed assignments and blown covers, again mental errors. Mental errors are fixable with film and experience, and Clarkson has already shown he can be a good shooter, playmaker, and defender. Eventually he will not just get back to where he was, but the 24 year old will be improved.