The Los Angeles Lakers struck gold when they purchased the 46th pick in the 2014 NBA Draft from the Washington Wizards, which was used to select Jordan Clarkson out of Missouri. The 6’5″ combo guard spent the first half of his rookie season on the bench but was unleashed in January of that year, and has remained a fixture in the Lakers’ starting lineup ever since.
Clarkson has developed a reputation as a tireless worker and uses the offseason to work on his weaknesses. He showed off an improved three-point shot last year, leaving his defense as the most glaring area for him to work on. New Lakers coach Luke Walton recently told Mark Medina of Inside SoCal that he believes Clarkson can make a big leap if he can ratchet up his defense:
“I think he can take his biggest strides by embracing the challenge of being a solid defender in this league. The big thing for him in becoming a better basketball player and us as a team is the way he gets after it on defense.”
Clarkson is slotted to start at shooting guard next season alongside D’Angelo Russell, and with Kobe Bryant now lost to retirement, they will need to take on tougher assignments on both ends of the floor. With the likes of James Harden, Klay Thompson, Dwyane Wade, and the rest of the NBA’s star two guards waiting for him, Clarkson will need to be at his best to help the Lakers stay competitive.
He does possess blistering speed, and Walton believes that will help Clarkson ultimately reach his potential as a defender:
“A couple of times I’ve seen it this summer where he gets after the ball. Because of his quickness, he disrupts the players. That’s going to be more of a mindset thing with him. He can be a very solid defender because of the way he can move out there on the court.”
Clarkson has already been impressive in his first two seasons in the NBA and was rewarded with a new contract this summer worth $50 million over four years. Now it will be up to him to make the leap in his third year and begin to fulfill the potential that the Lakers saw in him back in 2014.