It’s not a secret that Jordan Clarkson is a scorer. That’s been apparent for years. But it would be a mistake to think Clarkson is a one-dimensional player.
Clarkson has seen a slight uptick in the amount that he is working as a playmaker and distributor. It’s partially out of necessity.
“I really respect that from him. It’s really changed his game. He’s learned how to get out of his comfort zone and not just be a scorer but be a playmaker and create for his teammates and it takes us to a whole different level.” — Rudy Gobert on Jordan Clarkson
Clarkson finished with five assists to go along with his 11 points off the bench Saturday against Washingtonl; it was his second five-assist game this season.
“I talk to a lot of the opposing coaches and mess around with them and a lot of them will say like, ‘JC we’re not going to let you get off tonight, we’re not going to let you score,’” Clarkson said. “And sometimes I take some crazy shots and do stuff like that and it’s just me being me. But a lot of teams are forcing me to pass and I just try to make the play and do what’s best for us.”
Having Clarkson work as a passer and a threat to throw a lob in the pick-and-roll game adds to the Jazz’s growing arsenal of offensive weapons.
With Clarkson’s increase in scoring and usage over the last two seasons with the Jazz, opposing coaches have started to scheme against him getting the ball in preferred scoring spots, sending double-teams, traps and blitzes at him in hopes that he will either take time off the clock dribbling in isolation or that he will turn the ball over.
Sometimes that tactic works, as it does with every NBA player, but Clarkson recognizes the need to adapt, something that teammate Rudy Gay said is necessary if players want to have longevity in the league.
“As you grow in your career, you pick up different things,” Gay said. “Nobody is going to go out there and let you try to get 30. This is the NBA and it is full of the best players in the world, best defenders, everything. JC is a great player and he’s not a one-dimensional player at all. The role he assumed here was to score and now that people are zoning in on that he has to do something different and he’s been pretty good.”
Clarkson has had 11 games this season with three or more assists, and although he’s only averaging just slightly above two assists per game, he’s on pace to have a career best season as far as assists go.
His playmaking has gotten better every year,” Rudy Gobert said. “I really respect that from him. It’s really changed his game. He’s learned how to get out of his comfort zone and not just be a scorer but be a playmaker and create for his teammates and it takes us to a whole different level. We know he’s going to score but when he’s able to read the double team or read the play and make the right play it takes us to a whole different level.”
Jazz coach Quin Snyder has always had confidence in Clarkson as a creator, but the Jazz are not shy in their push for Clarkson to score the ball. Snyder said that Clarkson can beat himself up and be really hard on himself when the shots aren’t falling. Involving his teammates is an easy way to break Clarkson out of being too hard on himself.
“It’s kind of more fun for me to get somebody else a shot than to shoot 3s over three or four hands,” Clarkson said.
It’s not like the Jazz want Clarkson to completely change his game and stop taking a high volume of shots every night. They absolutely want him to continue along that path and they’re never mad about some of the crazy shots he takes.
But seeing a growing part of Clarkson’s game just adds to why they appreciate him as a player and a teammate. Just as Donovan Mitchell is able to impact the game in many ways outside of scoring, Clarkson has the ability to do the same, even if on a smaller scale.
“That’s also what JC is starting to do,” Gay said. “If I’m coach Quin, I’m happy. I’m going to sleep happy because that’s what we want from him.”