Player profile: Jordan Clarkson

Jordan Clarkson (born 7 June 1992) is a Filipino-American combo guard for the NBA’s Utah Jazz franchise. He had a two-year college stint with Tulsa and transferred to Missouri, earning second team all-state in his lone year there. He decided to forego his senior year and was a second-round draft selection of the Washington Wizards before being immediately dealt at draft night to the Los Angeles Lakers. He was an All-Rookie first teamer, an outlier for a second rounder. He was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers come 2018, before subsequently finding a home with the Jazz in December of 2019. On 24 March of 2015, he and Jeremy Lin became the first pair of Asian-American guards to start a regulation NBA game. In 2021, Clarkson was adjudged as NBA Sixth Man of the Year. 

Beginnings

Clarkson could trace his beginnings to Tampa, Florida. He is the son of an Afro-American dad and a half-Filipino mother. His maternal grandmother is from Pampanga, Philippines. His parents both spent time with the Air Force, divorcing soon. At age six, Clarkson moved to San Antonio, Texas. He attended high school there, norming averages of ten points as a sophomore. He was an all-district honourable mention. Junior year, he averaged twenty points, six boards, and four helpers. He led his team to the state semis. That year, he signed a letter of intent to play with Tulsa. His senior year, he upped those numbers to 18 points, six caroms, and two swipes but lost in the semis stage of the state championship. He was likewise adjudged San Antonio High School Player of the Year. 

At Missouri

College

As a neophyte, he was named to the conference freshman team after posing 11 points an outing in 24 minutes a ballgame. Sophomore year, he became an all-conference first teamer, putting up 16.5 points and 3.9 boards per contest. In 2012, he transferred to Missouri, sitting out the 2013 season in line with NCAA rules. The following season, he was honoured to the All-SEC second team. In 35 starts, he put up 17.5 points, 3.8 boards, 3.4 dimes, and 1.1 pickpockets in 35 minutes a night. In March 2014, he declared for the association draft, vacating his senior year. 

Pro years

On 26 June 2014, the Wizards used the 46th pick on Clarkson. They traded him right away to the LA Lakers for cash. He had numerous relegations to the D-League and played sparingly during the first half of the season. However, when all was said and done, he started 38 games for the purple and gold. Playing as a point guard, he normed averages of 15 points and five assists as a starter. That night with Lin as his backcourt mate, he dropped 30 markers and seven dimes in a loss to the Thunder. On 30 March and 1 April, Clarkson normed back-to-back double-doubles. Subsequently, he was named All-Rookie first squad. He became only the fifth second-rounder to be so awarded in the last thirty years. He became a fan favourite in the Philippines considering his Pinoy heritage and the huge Laker fanbase in that country. 

Jeremy and Jordan

The comparison with Lin is an interesting one, as both are Asian-American and were utilised as point guards. They were also teammates at Tinseltown. While Lin is a capable player, his NBA career was beset by injuries. He was able to awe the world and manufacture Linsanity. The Harvard connection and bench-warming also make for the perfect underdog story. Good as Lin was, he was a limited player in the Association. ‘Make him go left’ was the common scouting report on Lin. I would assert that Clarkson is the better ballhandler as Lin was turnover prone. Clarkson is also the more consistent cager and more dependable on the perimeter. With Lin you never know what you’re gonna get. One night, he’ll put up thirty and hit four triples then go two of ten the next night for five points. Clarkson is a bit more balanced and therefore, more reliable. In my opinion, he’s tougher than Lin. That’s why he’s still in the league. 

Early on in his career, the knock on Clarkson was that he was featured on bad teams. Yes, he was a consistent scorer and played under Kobe’s guidance. With the Lakers though, the talent level was in decline, and they never made the postseason. In other words, there wasn’t enough help. Though he normed career highs across the board, they were done in meaningless matches. He was rewarded with a fat contract: four years, fifty million. 

First Finals

Mid-way through his fourth year, he was shipped to the Cavs together with Larry Nance, Jr. This was his first taste of the playoffs, and he had a limited role, averaging 15 minutes with no starts. Regardless, they made it all the way to the Finals. A J.R. Smith brain cramp in Game 1 killed any chance of making it a series. Warriors 4, Cavs 0. After LeBron left the following year, the Cavs went into rebuilding mode. During his lone full season with them, Clarkson dropped his career high: 42 points in a loss against Brooklyn. 

Jazz

December of 2019, Clarkson was dealt to the Jazz for Dante Exum and a pair of second rounders. Last November, he re-signed with Utah on a new 4-year, $52M covenant. Later that month, Clarkson poured in a season-best forty-pence in a win over Philly. Last season, he ended up totalling over 18 points an outing, a career high. He led the league with 203 treys off the pine. He was reportedly only the third human in bench annals to post that stat. He bested teammate Joe Ingles in winning the Sixth Man trophy. He also became the first Utah dribbler to be so honoured. 

Clarkson’s game

At 6-4 and 194 pounds, Clarkson is a combo guard. He can run the show at the point with his good dribbling skills. Alternatively, he can play off the ball and shoot ringless from deep. He has good range that extends to the arc. He is a career 34 percent shooter from trifecta. He is more of a volume scorer, needing more shots to get in rhythm. Lately, he’s been a deadeye from the foul line, although he has admittedly started less games. Early on in his career, he was a staple of the Lakers’ first five. Subsequently, he embraced his role as the premier sixth man. 

He’s not much of a defender, although he will make the occasional interception. With the injury-riddled Jazz, he has so far not gone beyond the second round of the playoffs. He will get more chances to bomb away now that he’s teamed up with Rudy Gobert. In recent years, he has taken a liking to tattoos. Clarkson also has a bit of a temper. I recall the time when Dario Saric drove in for a layup during garbage time. He took offence and was issued a technical. With his resume, he is no doubt the gold standard for Asian American pros in the league.

Gilas

From a tender age, Clarkson had shown a desire to represent the Pinoys. He was initially deemed ineligible as he reportedly collected his Filipino passport aged sixteen. Subsequently, he was merely an observer in Gilas training. However, the hoops honcho in the country stated that Clarkson got his passport as a twelve-year-old. Thus, he did not need to be naturalised to play for Pinas. Scheduling conflicts with the Lakers precluded him from participating in qualifying tourneys. Though he was selected to play for Pinas prior to Rio, red tape and killjoys prevented him from putting on the Gilas jersey. In a one-time exception, the Association finally cleared Clarkson to play in time for the Asian Games. He dropped 28 versus China and 25 against Korea but fell short on both occasions. Gilas ended up in fifth place. 

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