The Utah Jazz acquired Jordan Clarkson via trade from the Cleveland Cavaliers on December 23. He made his debut with Utah on Thursday night.
The main reason for the move is that the Jazz have an anemic offense when Donovan Mitchell is not on the court. Their offensive rating in these minutes (100.4) has been far below the league average (109.1) so far this season. Cleveland, meanwhile, had scored well (110.5) with Clarkson in December. He has long shown that he is capable of massive scoring eruptions on any given night.
Dennis Lindsey, Utah’s executive vice president of basketball operations, spoke about Clarkson before his debut with the Jazz (via Deseret.com):
“There was a little bit of a duh-factor being 28th in bench scoring. We needed to add someone that could just go and get a shot. … He was a player that Quin asked me about this summer so it’s not the first conversation we’ve had about him.”
During his first game for the franchise, he showcased his ability to get a quick bucket off the bench. He scored nine points in his first nine minutes with the new squad.
He was held scoreless for the remainder of the game, though. The beginning of the contest showed why the team was willing to move on from a former lottery pick in Dante Exum to acquire him. The latter half showed why both the Los Angeles Lakers and Cleveland Cavaliers have been willing to move on from him via trade as too often he can vanish.
While he has proven that he can play one-through-three, the 27-year-old has spent 86 percent of his minutes as the shooting guard position this season. That will likely be his primary position on the Jazz, though his experience as a point guard and small forward will make him valuable as veteran Mike Conley recovers from a hamstring issue over the next few weeks.
He was able to slide into the three alongside Mitchell and Emmanuel Mudiay in the backcourt. However, he also spent a few possessions as the point guard with Mitchell and Joe Ingles on the wing.
But more likely than not, his primary role (once Conley returns from his injury) will be as a scoring spark-plug during minutes without Mitchell. This is mostly because he’s a high-usage, ball-dominant player that requires the rock in his hands to make his biggest impact. The 6-foot-5 guard has averaged 59.7 touches per 36 minutes during his professional career, indicating it will be hard for him to do much while Mitchell is on the court.
Meanwhile, one of the other advantages of his addition is that it allows Royce O’Neale to play his natural position as their backup small forward. O’Neale has spent 57 percent of his minutes in 2019-20 at shooting guard out of necessity, though it has not been his best position.
According to Cleaning the Glass, for example, the Jazz have been outscored by 1.0 point per 100 possessions when O’Neale has played the two. But they have outscored their opponents by 14.4 points per 100 when he has played at the three.
During his debut, Clarkson was actually held scoreless on catch-and-shoot opportunities. But this is another way that he can surely make a difference for his new offense once he gets more into a rhythm.
Clarkson is currently shooting 39-for-93 (41.9 percent) on three-pointers off the catch. Considering how efficient Utah has been on these attempts, they will have another weapon in the arsenal with Clarkson as a viable option on their team.