Jordan Clarkson is on a hot streak and Keyonte George is part of the reason why
Jordan Clarkson has been mixing it up on offense and rookie Keyonte George has been making sure he gets good looks.
When Jordan Clarkson has the hot hand, his teammates know that there’s no better way to help the group than to get him the ball.
“Man that dude is elite at what he does,” John Collins said of his teammate after the Utah Jazz beat the Portland Trail Blazers, 115-99. “Scoring the basketball and giving us that umph, that punch when he has the ball. And he seems like he’s not conscious of, or that he doesn’t really see defenders in front of him.”
Clarkson started Tuesday’s game against the Portland Trail Blazers by going 6 of 6 in the first quarter and he went on to score a game-high 30 points on 13-of-19 overall.
There are a couple of reasons that Clarkson is on a hot streak, having scored 25 points or more in three straight games. Obviously there are times when Clarkson is just out there doing things only he can do and it seems like he’s creating something out of nothing. But I’d argue that Clarkson is a lot more aware of the defense than people think.
Mixing it up
When Clarkson is really rolling, you often won’t see him settle for the same types of shots over and over.
Take a look for yourself:
Instead, what you usually see is Clarkson allowing the defense to dictate a shot, and then he’ll let them get used to that shot before changing things up.
On his second shot of the game, Clarkson sees that when he drives into the lane, the help defender is showing a little bit but then popping back out, giving Clarkson a lot of space for him to operate.
Clarkson is really good in that spot, using his pivot and dribble to find a push shot, floater or a little jumper. So, when Clarkson gets the ball in the half court, he does this four more times (with some transition buckets mixed in).
Then, when the defense expects him to drive again, he starts to step back and hit from 3.
“I think JC is best when he has a lot of space,” rookie Keyonte George said. “He can score in a lot of different ways. You don’t know if he’s gonna dribble around and then end up getting a floater, so you just gotta stay patient. I know he’s gonna make the right play each and every time.”
Then, once he has the defense thinking about step-backs, he’ll cut inside and use his savvy at the rim.
Chemistry with Keyonte
Something else that has been working for Clarkson is the point guard. As you read above, George is already thinking about where and when to get Clarkson the ball and to show patience because he knows that Clarkson is smart.
None of this is by accident. George knows that he is fortunate to be in this position — a rookie who is starting at point guard in the NBA — so he’s been watching a lot of film and making sure to build up his relationships with the players he’s most likely to be passing the ball to.
“He just knows how to play,” Clarkson said of George. “He’s very smart and he’s picking up on stuff really quick. You saw him getting into his bag in terms of scoring and stuff. I think he’s shown that he can pass the ball. But he’s just doing a great job of controlling the offense.”
Of particular note, Jazz head coach Will Hardy has noticed that George is really good at making sure that Clarkson and Lauri Markkanen and John Collins are getting easy and open looks at the basket early in the game, which then gets them into a rhythm and makes them feel more comfortable and confident as the game progresses.
“I think Keyonte’s ability to get Jordan and Lauri, in particular, easy rhythm shots, over the course of the game is super helpful for us,” Hardy said.
“When you’re a top offensive player on any team and the game plan is centered around stopping you — and Jordan and Lauri deal with that a lot — it’s hard to find clean looks in the game. And so I think Keyonte has helped both of them get a couple of clean looks each game.”
That’s not insignificant. The fact that George is thriving in his role, in part because he’s getting the highest scoring players good, open looks bodes well for the immediate success of guys like Clarkson and the future success of this team.