As a child who grew up in Wisconsin during the early 2000's, my initial years as a sports fanatic were dedicated to trying to find the positives in a world that's filled with mediocrity. To help mend some of the not-so-positive feelings that somebody would have in that type of scenario, my outlook has always been more optimistic. While it can be extremely difficult to find optimism when your team consistently struggles, the ability to find that "diamond in the rough" can go a long way.
That will come in handy for Lakers' fans, as a trip to the Western Conference cellar appears inevitable. While the trajectory appears extremely bleak, there are some players on the Lakers' roster who could potentially fit into that "diamond in the rough" category.
Lakers season preview
Lakers season preview
One of those potential gems, Jordan Clarkson, will be starting his Lakers career as an unheralded second-round selection from the University of Missouri. Even though he'll be coming into his inaugural season as a relative unknown, he could fill a vital role in the team's backcourt rotation.
There is a high level of uncertainty surrounding the point guard position, again. As mentioned in their individual pieces from earlier this week, Steve Nash and Jeremy Lin both face varying amounts of pressure in the upcoming season. While Lin will probably be able to bring a certain amount of stability to the position that hasn't been there for the past few seasons, there remains a significant sized hole in the team's second unit.
Nash's ability to have a significant role in the Lakers' rotation remains in question, which potentially leaves Jordan Clarkson in the role of leader of the team's reserve unit. Despite the uncertainty about his ability to take control of that role right away, the rookie guard has shown flashes of being the type of player we haven't seen in a Lakers' uniform in years. As showcased during his time with Missouri and most recently in Summer League, Clarkson immediately jumps out at you because of the high-energy approach he brings to every possession. As the majority of young back-court talent tend to struggle to find their "comfort level" with their new team, it appears that Clarkson won't be sharing those same concerns. Here's a three-minute compilation highlighting Clarkson's offensive talent:
In a similar mold to former Lakers guard Ramon Sessions, Clarkson's offensive approach is centered around aggression and ability to cut to the rim on a consistent basis. That approach was at center stage during his Summer League stint as he utilized his speed and stellar ball-handling skills to easily work his way through the opposition. Once he's in the paint, he can control his athletic 6'6" frame to get an easier look around the rim.
In addition to Clarkson's ability to score around the rim, he also appears to have a knack for drawing contact that puts him at the charity stripe. During the prior season with Missouri, he averaged around six free-throw attempts per game.
When you get away from that tremendous level of aggression and consistency in getting to the rim, Clarkson's work away from the paint can be seen as a potential issue. At Missouri, he struggled with his perimeter jumper. However, he does seem to have some success from the 3-point line as he showed in his Summer League stint.
Defensively, Clarkson was able to get an advantage over his opponent because of his size. While he probably doesn't have the lateral quickness to guard the majority of NBA point guards, Jordan should be able to remain an effective defender because of how he can use his length.
Although there are definitely flaws in Clarkson's overall game, his potential role in the Lakers' backcourt is intriguing. On a Lakers team that has recently employed Steve Nash, Kendall Marshall and Derek Fisher as their main point guards, Clarkson's athleticism and energy will immediately add an element that hasn't been seen in the Lakers backcourt in recent memory. Even though the team has had that high-energy approach during the Mike D'Antoni era, they never had a point guard that really looked comfortable in that type of approach
Though Clarkson will likely be relegated to the team's reserve unit, he appears to be a perfect fit for an athletic bench group. Byron Scott could definitely shake up that approach, but it shouldn't have a negative effect on Clarkson's work on offense. During the prior season, the Lakers finished second in the league in pace, which is the biggest showcase of how the Lakers have approached the offensive end.
With Clarkson aboard, the team will have a point guard who's comfortable with high-energy play who is a solid ball-handler on a team that's filled with perimeter shooters. In that role, Clarkson's ability to cut to the paint will help pull the opposition's attention away from the perimeter, which will allow him to kick it out to an open shooter.
Jordan Clarkson may very well remain an unrecognized name in the Lakers' rotation, but he'll definitely be a unique and exciting player to watch during the upcoming season. As I said, though the immediate outlook may be dreary, Jordan Clarkson may be that "diamond in the rough" player who helps you remain optimistic, even in challenging and tough times.