Los Angeles Lakers head coach Luke Walton teased fans of the team at the start of training camp when he said Jordan Clarkson was looking better defensively. Could the athletic guard who so often looked completely lost during his first two seasons truly realize his potential on that end in his third?
Through two games, the answer is an emphatic yes, even if it is just preseason.
Clarkson has the fourth highest defensive rating (75.3) of any Lakers averaging more than 10 minutes per game so far (if we remove that qualifier, then Jose Calderon and Ivica Zubac are tied for first at 56), meaning the Lakers have given up 75.3 points per 100 possessions while Clarkson has teamed with Tarik Black, Brandon Ingram, and Larry Nance, Jr. to create lengthy havoc against bench units.
It’s all been pretty impressive for a player so widely derided as a minus defensively earlier in his career, and his new head coach is among those Clarkson’s improvement has won over:
Luke Walton called Jordan Clarkson's the teams "most consistent perimeter defender" during training camp— Mark Medina (@MarkG_Medina) October 8, 2016
Clarkson was quick to credit his teammates for his success:
"We're communicating [on defense] a lot better than we did last year"- @JClark5on on @SpectrumSN— Harrison Faigen (@hmfaigen) October 8, 2016
"That's cool that coach has that confidence in me. I'm just trying to keep showing that I've improved this year" Clarkson on Walton's praise— Harrison Faigen (@hmfaigen) October 8, 2016
How much of this success will be sustainable in the regular season remains to be seen. The Lakers haven’t played very good teams so far, and no one looks their best offensively during the preseason.
All those caveats aside, Clarkson looks a lot better, and if he can maintain the same level of play defensively going forward it will substantially raise his ceiling as a player.
All stats per NBA.com. You can follow this author on Twitter at @hmfaigen.