Welcome to Lakers LinkedIn, our new free agency preview series (inspired by our friends over at Liberty Ballers' own "Sixers Tinder") where we look at the "resumes" of various free agents, and determine whether or not we think the Lakers' should hire them. Today, it's time to view the case of the Lakers top free agent, Jordan Clarkson.
Jordan Clarkson’s Resume
-NBA All-Rookie First Team
-Participant in Rising Stars Challenge
-Rookie of the Month
Jordan Clarkson knows all the point guards taken ahead of him in the 2014 NBA draft, and that chip on his shoulder has paid dividends for the purple and gold. There weren’t many expectations for Clarkson as a second-round pick. The Missouri product couldn’t consistently hit an outside shot and his defense was non-existent. The transition to the NBA wouldn’t be easy and Clarkson had several stints in the D-League before finally getting the call up for good.
Clarkson exploded onto the NBA scene as a full-time starter after the All-Star break in the 2014-15 season, averaging 16.7 points and 5.4 assists per game on 48 percent shooting. Despite being labeled as a "good numbers on a bad team" guy, Clarkson landed a spot on the All-Rookie First team.
The second-year guard began developing his outside shot and it showed. Clarkson caught fire from behind the arc last November, shooting 43 percent from three. His best month of the season was February. Clarkson averaged 17.8 points, 3.5 assists and 4.6 rebounds per game. He shot 49.6 percent from the field and 46 percent from three.
Unfortunately, Clarkson dropped off a cliff the following month, hitting just 31 percent of his outside shots. He will need to find consistency in his outside shooting, which should come with another year of development and playing with a skilled backcourt mate in D’Angelo Russell.
Clarkson still has defensive concerns. He had a defensive rating of 114 according to basketball-reference.com, which is near the bottom of the league. Clarkson got better at positioning and getting in passing lanes, but his defense still needs work. Another area where Clarkson regressed was finishing near the rim. He only converted 54 percent of his chances between 0-3 feet from the basket, according to basketball-reference.com. This is a massive drop from his 67 percent conversion rate in 2014-15. Clarkson will have to return to that level to justify the big raise he is about to get, wherever he gets it.
The Lakers have a huge advantage when it comes to retaining Clarkson. He is a restricted free agent and is limited in the type of offers he can get. The max offer Clarkson can receive on the open market contains a huge jump in the third year of any deal. Basically, Clarkson can get either a three-year, $34 million deal or a four-year, $58 million deal with huge increases in his cap hit coming after the first two seasons.
Should the Lakers hire Clarkson?
This is a no-brainer for the Lakers. They want to spend a ton of money as the cap is spiking and even a max-level contract with weird jumps in salary for Clarkson will allow them to do that. Clarkson is on an upward trajectory as a player and the Lakers shouldn’t give up on their promising young nucleus, which Clarkson is a part of.
I expect Los Angeles to match any offer on Clarkson, as they should.