Coming into the season one major concern about the Los Angeles Lakers was their ability to stop opponents. The team simply doesn’t have a lot of good individual defensive players and that has shown itself throughout this year.
One player who seemingly has all the tools to be a great defender is Jordan Clarkson. He has great size, length, speed, and lateral quickness, but has has yet to translate that into being a plus on the defensive end.
Both Luke Walton and Magic Johnson have said that Clarkson can eventually be an elite defender and Clarkson agreed that he has the ability to do so via Mark Medina of the LA Daily News:
“I feel like I have the ability to do that,” Clarkson said. “I’m quick and able to guard in the post […] I’m taking that to heart,” Clarkson said. “It’s going to take us some time. We’re all still young and growing. I feel like I can do it though.”
Walton also believes that getting stronger will help Clarkson improve on the defensive end:
“His defensive numbers are not very good. But he’s got the quickness,” Walton said. “He’s going to continue to get stronger. I think that’s going to help him a lot too […] But as far as his explosiveness and aggression and competitive level, I think he’ll be a good defender the older he gets and stronger he gets.”
Clarkson had his moments on Friday against the Thunder. Even though Russell Westbrook had another triple-double, Clarkson had four steals in the game and helped hold Westbrook to only 4-18 from the field. He will have to begin doing that on a much more consistent basis however.
At this moment Larry Nance Jr. is the only young player who is consistently a positive on defense as he ranks third on the team in steals, second in blocks, and is excellent with off-ball rotations. There is some potential however with Clarkson, Brandon Ingram, and Ivica Zubac all showing signs and the Lakers won’t reach their potential until things get better on defense.