For years, Los Angeles Lakers fans have longed for the point guard of the future. They may have unsuspectingly gotten their wish in Jordan Clarkson.
Magic Johnson is obviously the purple and gold standard when it comes to Lakers point guards, but the craving began after the departure of Nick Van Exel in 1998. Derek Fisher eventually became the starting point guard as the Lakers began winning championships again in the early 2000s. While he wasn’t a prototypical point guard, Fisher and Kobe Bryant were the perfect fit in the backcourt, and their collaboration helped lead the Lakers to five championships from 2000 to 2010.
In between Fisher’s reign, there was the Smush Parker experience and after his final departure, the Ramon Sessions one.
Neither one quite worked out, and the Lakers acquired Steve Nash in the summer of 2012. Nash was coming off a solid season at age 38, but a severe injury hampered him during his tenure here in L.A., and eventually led to his retirement.
Prior to this season, the Lakers drafted forward Julius Randle with the seventh overall pick, and also picked up Jordan Clarkson with the 46th pick.
An athletic 6’5″ guard, Clarkson felt as though he was picked late in the draft, and that he was actually the best point guard among his fellow rookies. He’s certainly used that snub as motivation for his play this season.
While the Lakers should certainly seek out all free agent options — including point guards — in the upcoming summer market, Jordan Clarkson has given management some confidence going forward.
The last three seasons have been absolutely brutal. I certainly don’t need to go into detail of the mess that transpired in 2012-2013, nor the injury-riddled 2013-2014 season. Or what has happened this season, for that matter.
The Lakers have been plagued with injuries, bad luck and more injuries since 2012.
But finally, there seems to be a bright spot for the Lake Show in the form of Jordan Clarkson.
Clarkson has averaged 10.9 points, 3.1 assists and 3.1 rebounds in his rookie season with the Lakers.
However, since he began starting ballgames in late January, his numbers over those 31 games have boosted to 15.0 points, 4.7 assists, and 4.2 rebounds on an eFG% of 49 percent, in 31 minutes of play.
Additionally, his numbers over the past 15 games have been even better: 16.0 points, 5.7 assists, and 5.3 rebounds while shooting an eFG% of 49.5 percent, in 32.2 minutes.
The numbers aren’t the entire tale of the tape, however.
It’s been some of the intangibles we’ve all witnessed that have impressed me the most.
For one, Clarkson shows poise when on the court. While he may not have the experience, he always seems to quickly correct any mistakes he may have made, and takes the learning process in stride. He’s got a long way to go in terms of becoming a dominant defender or becoming an orchestrator on offense each and every night, but he has all the tools to be just that.
Secondly, he’s not shy when it comes to the big moment. When faced against a notoriously fierce competitor in Russell Westbrook recently, Clarkson went off for 30 points, seven assists and four rebounds.
Even more recently, he knocked down some clutch free throws, and, to the dismay of many Lakers fans rooting for a loss against the Philadelphia 76ers on Monday night, was instrumental to the eventual victory — even casually laying in the game-winning bucket at the end of overtime.
Despite the poise and confidence on the court, perhaps the most impressive thing about Clarkson has been his demeanor both on and off it. He appears to have a strong work ethic, and is willing to learn from the legends that surround the Lakers’ organization. He’s been working closely with Steve Nash, and has his eyes wide open when taking pointers from Kobe Bryant. On top of that, in the Backstage: Lakers episodes on Time Warner Cable’s SportsNet, Clarkson seems dedicated to accepting mentorship from staff members, and is committed to growing as a person.
Clarkson’s demeanor is reminiscent to that of Derrick Rose when it comes down to work ethic and humbleness.
While the sample size for Clarkson’s development in his rookie season is not a big one, some of the intangibles are very promising for Lakers fans.
Maybe the team will be able to acquire an All-Star point guard in the near future, or maybe not.
Either way, the Lakers have a young talent (at age 22) who seems willing to take on the challenge of being the Lakers’ starting point guard. He may never turn into one of the superstar point guards of the league, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s not the right player for the job.
Playing alongside a healthy Julius Randle and (hopefully) a draft pick acquired this summer, Clarkson could be an integral piece to a young team on the rise, in the near future.
The Lakers — with mentors like Nash and Kobe — have an opportunity to develop and mold Jordan Clarkson into the complete player they want him to be, regardless of whom they pick up over the summer.
Clarkson certainly seems to have bought in to the Lakers’ franchise, for his part.
If he keeps up the pace he’s shown this season, in two or three seasons we could see an extremely well-rounded floor leader for the Lakers — one that may even enjoy a long and successful career in the purple and gold.[divide]