Editor’s note: Eleventh in a series evaluating and grading every player that was on the Jazz’s final 2022-23 roster.

There was a point early on in the season when Jordan Clarkson was looking around during a timeout huddle and wondering who the vocal leader of the group was going to be. Donovan Mitchell wasn’t on the team anymore, Joe Ingles wasn’t on the team anymore and Mike Conley had subbed out of the game.

Clarkson slowly came to the realization that he was going to have to step into that role. It was the first of many changes for Clarkson during the 2022-23 season, changes that he seemingly adapted to without difficulty.

Jordan Clarkson — Grade: B+

At this point, it really shouldn’t be surprising that Clarkson is able to maneuver through different situations with ease and adapt his game. He’s proven that he can do so time and time again. But last season with the Jazz, Clarkson’s game evolved in ways that it hadn’t before.

After moving into the starting lineup, Clarkson was given more responsibility and had no problem there. Playing more minutes, taking more shots than he had previously in his career, Clarkson improved his efficiency compared to the 2021-22 season, averaging a career-best 20.8 points to go with 4.0 rebounds per game, while shooting 44.4% overall, 33.8% from 3-point range and 81.6% from the free-throw line.

The most impressive change that Clarkson made last season was becoming more of a facilitator and distributor for the Jazz. When head coach Will Hardy told Clarkson that he would need to set his teammates up for success with more intention than he’d done previously, Clarkson rose to the challenge.

The result was Clarkson averaging a career-best 4.4 assist per game on the season. After Conley was traded to Minnesota, Clarkson averaged 6.1 assists per game before being sidelined for the rest of the season with multiple hand injuries.

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Though Clarkson’s turnovers were at a career-high, 3.0 per game, and he’ll need to clean that up, some of those miscues can be excused by him taking on a new role and also being on a team with quite a few players who were inexperienced.

The shift from being a straight gunner to also having the offense run through him was something I talked with Clarkson about in January. He said that until this point in his career, it hadn’t been something that was asked of him. But now, he felt like he was finally getting to show the NBA world that he was more than just a scorer.

“I think I’m evolving into what I was supposed to be,” Clarkson said. “I’m starting to separate myself from that Sixth Man guy and become a trusted starter and someone that can make plays, can score points in a bunch. If the game needs to be held at a certain point or the lead needs to be expanded, I think all those times this year, I’ve answered.”

In addition to being more of a ball handler for the Jazz, Clarkson also became more of a mentor and a communicator. Clarkson has always been a good locker room presence for any team that he’s been a part of — routinely praised for being able to keep the mood light and spirits up — but being someone that younger players could rely and go to when seeking advice was not something that Clarkson had been intentional about in the past.

There were questions about how Clarkson would handle that type of role, there were questions about how he would respond to playing with Collin Sexton, who he didn’t really play well with when they were on the floor together with the Cleveland Cavaliers, there were questions about whether Clarkson would remain happy in a situation where the Jazz weren’t set up to be a contending team.

All of those questions and concerns were quickly squashed. Clarkson handled his new role without any hiccups, he became one of Sexton’s most zealous cheerleaders, and Clarkson continuously helped to remind players that they were building toward something, even if the results weren’t perfect during the 2022-23 season.

“I think in terms of that I proved a lot to myself, too,” Clarkson said. “Proved it to the game.”

Though next year’s contract is not something that influences the grade, it is absolutely influenced by Clarkson’s production and abilities. Clarkson has a player option for next season worth $14.2 million. Clarkson is largely expected to opt out and enter free agency. With how he performed over the last three years, especially considering his more well-rounded game, Clarkson should be able to get a contract worth roughly $20 million per year.

The nine-year veteran has had nothing but glowing things to say about the Utah Jazz and Salt Lake City and would be more than happy to re-sign with the Jazz, but it’s all probably going to come down to timing and which team offers the best deal.

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Utah Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson smiles as he walks back to his seat after a timeout as Utah and Denver play at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City on Saturday, April 8, 2023. Clarkson ended the season in streets clothes after suffering a series of hand injuries | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News