The Los Angeles Lakers have been developing Jordan Clarkson for the past three seasons, and the further his career progresses, the more he seems best used as a combo guard off the bench.
That’s not a huge leap of faith, nor is it the first time we’re talking about Clarkson being well-equipped to be a sixth man for the Lakers. It’s a role he began embracing last season. Jordan was the only Lakers player to lace them up in all 82 games, but he started in just 19 games.
Magic Johnson said back in August that he challenged Clarkson to strive toward the Sixth Man of the Year Award, and that’s a niche he’s embracing heading into Season 4 of his career.
“I came off the bench most of last year, so it won't be nothing new to me. It's kind of just a role I have to fulfill the shoes and succeed at,” Clarkson said when asked if he’s comfortable coming off the bench behind Lonzo Ball and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.
As luck would have it, Clarkson has enjoyed the chance to watch one of the NBA’s top off-the-bench guards in Lou Williams over the past two seasons. He’s arguably the prototype for a player like Jordan, who’s value comes in his ability to aggressively score with the ball in his hands.
Clarkson walked away with lessons learned from Williams’ time with the team, and they weren’t just about how to get buckets.
“The big thing about that is if we ain’t winning, I ain’t in no Sixth Man of the Year award. Lou was averaging, what, close to 18-19 last year? He wasn't getting any recognition in being Sixth Man of the Year because he was losing. All that kind of comes to fruition if I'm playing good off the bench,” Clarkson said.
The Lakers should be winning more games than they have in recent years, but skepticism remains until results are shown. Much of the team’s success may come down to Clarkson performing like a Sixth Man of the Year candidate.
Depth behind Clarkson in the backcourt leaves much to be desired. Tyler Ennis was a last-resort signing of sorts for the Lakers, who reportedly courted players like Derrick Rose and George Hill before turning to Ennis. Ball — a rookie with a world of expectations for immediate success riding on him — and Caldwell-Pope could make for a solid starting duo.
Beyond that, it falls on Clarkson to be the next guy up.
*All quotes transcribed via Lakers.com