While there hasn’t been much to cheer about in Cleveland these days, fans of the Utah Jazz have to be thrilled with the results. Following last night’s victory over the Charlotte Hornets, the Jazz has won eight straight games and just might be the hottest team in the NBA.
Clarkson has been a catalyst in this winning streak, as with starting point guard Mike Conley still sidelined with a hamstring injury, he has assumed the lead guard position when on the floor and has thrived.
As good as the Utah Jazz’s starting lineup is, their bench was holding them back, as with the squad ranking 28th in bench scoring, they needed a spark plug to wake up the second unit when the starters just don’t have it.
When discussing Clarkson’s impact, his Utah debut against the Portland Trail Blazers was a near-perfect sample of why the Jazz acquired the guard, as he came off the bench to score nine points in nine minutes and quickly turn the game into a blowout in favor of Utah.
Jordan Clarkson has thrived as a two-guard in Utah’s offense, where he has played 86 percent of his minutes with the Jazz so far. Perhaps this is because he doesn’t have to assume the normal, point guard duties and just focus on what he does best: getting buckets.
It only took Clarkson three games to score 20 points off the bench, which is something no one else on the Jazz bench did in the first 30 games. Averaging 14.3 points per game and shooting 36.7 percent from three with the Jazz, Clarkson provides the Jazz with the necessary energy that unlocks a new level of potential to the offense.
There are only five teams in the NBA that shoot more off-the-catch threes than the Jazz do, but they lead the league in shooting 42.4 percent on these attempts. Adding Clarkson, who shoots an ultra-efficient 41 percent on these shots, will bring up that average.
The acquisition also helps the Jazz on the defensive end, as having Clarkson allows Royce O’Neal to slide back into his natural position as a backup small forward. The Jazz was struggling earlier this season when O’Neal had to play the two, but those struggles are basically eradicated with Clarkson.
In speaking with Andy Larsen of the Salt Lake Tribune, Clarkson said that while his knowledge of the offense is coming along slowly, but surely, his focus is to commit to being a quality defender for the Jazz.
“I’m really concentrating on the game plan and how to help my team,” Clarkson said. “I have a free mind, not a lot of thinking going into it on the offensive side. Then, I try to lock in our coverages [defensively].”
It’s scary to think how good this Jazz team can be once everyone is healthy. Even though they will be without Conley and franchise cornerstone Donovan Mitchell in Sunday night’s game, boasting a top-7 of Conley-Mitchell-Ingles-Bogdanovic-Gobert with Clarkson and O’Neal off the bench gives the Jazz the core that can compete with the league’s best.
Jordan Clarkson doesn’t only provide the Jazz second unit with some much-needed life: he unlocks their potential on both sides of the court and helps make Utah a legitimate title contender.