This Los Angeles Lakers' season is only four lousy games old and it's already chock full of clichés. Already we're railing on about Kobe's atrocious shot selection, the less than total commitment to youth development and whatever fetid swill Byron Scott is passing off as functional rotations, served up by the ladleful. It all feels sooo 2014. Staying true to the theme, so does Jordan Clarkson, who is once again a bright spot in a mostly dark start to the Lakers' season. Just as he was last year.
Folks are rightly wondering if this could be the worst Lakers team ever, even in light of the two bottom feeders they've trotted out over the past couple of seasons. It's certainly possible, but with the antihero of a top lottery selection not likely to swoop in and rescue the Lakers from another season of futility, we're going to be forced to find solace in the little "wins" the team gives viewers throughout the season.
No, I'm not talking about fun little treats like Metta's bowties, but the growth of their youth. Julius Randle offers a herky jerky bastion of hope and D'Angelo Russell has shown promising glimpses when not needlessly shackled to the bench, but man, Jordan Clarkson has been pretty damn good so far, hasn't he?
It's not just the numbers (more on those later) that should have Lakers fans excited for the less heralded half of the team's young backcourt. Clarkson's playing style and demeanor -- namely, not caring whatsoever about any perceived pecking order or seniority -- are perhaps the most heartening signs of progress for a team currently lacking any kind of discernible identity on either side of the floor.
I've openly questioned whether or not Clarkson would be able to maintain the fearless, attacking mindset he established during his second half surge last season now that he has more established teammates, but the numbers back up the eye test that seemingly affirms his aggressiveness. Clarkson's raw stat line of 18.3 points, 2.0 assists and 2.8 rebounds per game would be impressive enough. But let's dig a little deeper, shall we?
Though his usage rate of 20.6 percent is an unconscionably low fourth-highest on the team, Jordan actually attempts the second-most shots, while being responsible for a team-leading 29.9 percent of the Lakers' made field goals.
Just take a gander at this beautiful sequence from Russell to Clarkson:
It's not just the aggressiveness and raw points; Clarkson has been astoundingly efficient. Overall, Jordan is shooting an uber-economic 53.7 percent from the field, and a Curry-esque 46.7 percent on 3.8 three-point attempts per contest. He's also diversifying the kinds of shots he's taking, devoting roughly a quarter of his attempts to catch-and-shoot opportunities, and splitting the remainder evenly between pull-up jumpers and shots inside of 10- feet, per NBA.com's player tracking data.
However you slice it, despite Lakers fans' general distaste for the color green, they can probably get used to seeing it light up their young stud's shot chart:
Mmmmm, smell that? That's the heady aroma a 65 percent conversion rate on close-range attempts (which is where Clarkson's highest concentration of attempts come from, by a wide margin).
Giddy up again.
On his catch and shoot chances -- the kinds of shots he should see plenty of once Russell eventually takes the reigns as the Lakers primary creator -- Clarkson is converting a robust 57.1 percent of his attempts. While a cursory glance at his percentage on pull-up jumpers (a staple of Clarkson's offense when coming off of screens) is a bit alarming at a pedestrian 35 percent, a closer look reveals a more respectable 41.2 percent clip on pull-up two-pointers being weighed down by missing every one of the .8 pull-up three-pointers he attempts per game.
The first week or two of the NBA season is notorious for making Hall of Famers out of average players, bums out of All-Stars, and world beaters out of lottery-bound clubs. To that end, let's all pour one out for that euphoric two-week fantasy camp in late 2006 when Luke Walton led the NBA in three-point percentage at a blistering 64.7 percent.
*Moment of silence*
No one expects Clarkson to keep his numbers so absurdly efficient over the course of an 82-game season. Nevertheless, the early returns are as promising as the Lakers' record is troubling. Unlike last year, there are some other genuinely intriguing players and plot lines to keep an eye on throughout the season, but one more cliché from last season that seems to be spilling into this one is Jordan Clarkson once again shining for a moribund Lakers team.
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*All Stats Per NBA.com