It came as a pretty big surprise to most when the starting lineups were announced ahead of the Los Angeles Lakers preseason opener and head coach Luke Walton decided not to start Jordan Clarkson. Clarkson is the Lakers’ leading returning scorer and most had penciled him in next to D’Angelo Russell at the shooting guard spot.
In two preseason games, however, Clarkson has been excellent, as has the entire bench unit. Clarkson has shown off his improved defense along with his trademark speed and athleticism and now many are wondering if Clarkson wouldn’t be better off as a top-flight sixth man, like the Lakers used to have with Lamar Odom.
Back during their back-to-back championship runs in 2009 and 2010, Odom was basically a sixth starter, and often finished games for the Lakers. Walton experienced that firsthand as a member of that team and he definitely sees some similarities in this Clarkson situation via the Lakers official Twitter:
Luke Walton compared Jordan Clarkson coming off the bench to Lamar Odom: "It's like mixing a starter with the second unit."
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) October 8, 2016
Clarkson has undoubtedly thrived in his bench role so far in the preseason and to his credit, he has maintained that he doesn’t care whether he starts or not. Having a weapon like Clarkson coming off the bench would be great for the Lakers and would definitely harken back to the Odom years. Clarkson could still finish most games regardless of whether he starts or not and the chemistry between himself and the rest of that bench unit is obvious.
If Clarkson were to stay in that bench role, the question would then become who would be the starting shooting guard. Lou Williams has been the starter so far, but the Lakers haven’t really gotten off to great starts in either preseason game so far and the Williams-Russell duo leaves much to be desired defensively.
If Walton wants to go more of a defensive approach, someone like Anthony Brown could get a look in that spot as well or potentially even rookie Brandon Ingram. If Walton does ultimately decide to keep Clarkson in a bench role, the Odom comparisons will likely continue, and Clarkson could live up to them.