Jordan Clarkson has flown under the radar for the most part this summer, but he’s sneakily one of the Los Angeles Lakers’ biggest wild cards of the offseason. As the team’s third-highest paid player (making $12.5 million next year) and their only semi-desirable large contract, Clarkson would likely have to serve as salary ballast in any type of large trade the Lakers want to make.
The Lakers also still appear more likely than not to select Lonzo Ball with the No. 2 pick and shift D’Angelo Russell to shooting guard, which would leave Clarkson back in the reserve role he’s shifted in and out of during his first three NBA seasons, in which he’s averaged 14.2 points and 2.8 assists while shooting 44.1 percent from the field.
During a chat with Mark Medina of the Southern California News Group, Clarkson sounded like he’s spending his offseason working, and that he’s pretty much ready for whatever happens.
More notably, Clarkson also revealed that he sees himself as more than the career back-up/microwave scorer off the bench many project him to be, admitting to Medina that such a characterization bothers him “a little bit,” although he said he added that he wants to kill it whatever role he ends up in:
“Seeing all that stuff is definitely motivation, to be honest with you,” Clarkson said. “It’s funny because people just talk. It is what it is. It’s part of the game. It’s part of the world now. If I’m going to be a sixth man, I’m going to go for Sixth Man of the Year. If I’m a starter, I’m definitely trying to be a great player either way. If it happens, whatever way it is, I’m going to be great at it.”
Clarkson prefers to start but said he will accept either role without complaint.
“I’m trying to get the best out of my opportunities,” he said.
Whether Clarkson wants to be a starter or not, his opportunity appears like it will be off the bench for the foreseeable future if the Lakers ultimately select Ball and not Josh Jackson.
If that’s the path they take and it turns Clarkson into a reserve, he should have a decent shot to put up the type of numbers on the second unit that a player needs to win Sixth Man of the Year. Right now a bench role would (likely) leave Clarkson able to push the pace in transition, run his bread-and-butter spread pick-and-rolls with Tarik Black or Ivica Zubac and serve as the primary creator for a bench mostly bereft of one-on-one scorers now that Lou Williams is gone.
Clarkson may see himself as a starter ultimately, but if he’s not and he’s as willing as he says to embrace coming off of the bench, he could find the type of award-winning success he alluded to wanting in such a role.