The Utah Jazz currently have the best record in the NBA. They also have the Sixth Man of the Year favorite in 28-year-old Jordan Clarkson.
Clarkson dominated against the Philadelphia 76ers on Feb. 15, tallying 40 points off the bench. This was yet another performance that solidified his candidacy to win the NBA’s 6MOY. The latest odds at VegasInsiders.com moved to -305 in favor of the 6-foot-5 guard, which gives him an implied probability of 75.3 percent.
It was just over a year ago when the Jazz acquired Clarkson for merely two second-round draft picks and Dante Exum but the move has already paid overwhelming dividends for the organization.
The Jordan Clarkson trade from Dec. 2019 will go down as one of the best transactions in recent memory.
Clarkson now up to 40 points and is the clear leader in the clubhouse for 6th Man of the Year.
— Bobby Marks (@BobbyMarks42) February 16, 2021
His teammates, including Joe Ingles, have been incredibly impressed with what Clarkson has been able to accomplish (via Salt Lake Tribune):
“I’ve never played with anyone like J.C. in my lifetime – on the court or off the court. It’s pretty cool to play with someone that’s so locked in, I guess, to what his role is, and so comfortable in the role that he has.”
This is well-earned praise for Clarkson, who is averaging a career-best 18.2 points per game. He is shooting 95.8 percent from the free-throw line and 46.2 percent from the field, both the highest in his career as well.
That is especially impressive considering, much like his entire team, he has been shooting a ton of shots from beyond the arc. Clarkson, who had never reached six three-pointers per game before this year, is currently attempting 8.4 three-pointers per game.
Specifically, he has been able to create these opportunities for himself more often. For someone playing in the second unit, this is an incredibly important trait.
Jordan Clarkson is as crafty an offensive player with the ball as there is. He lulls defenders to sleep and just gets what he wants. #PHIatUTA
— David J. Smith (@davidjsmith1232) February 16, 2021
Before this season, 77.4 percent of his three-pointers came from an assist, averaging 1.85 points per 100 possession on unassisted three-pointers. This season, those marks have changed dramatically, now falling at 64.4 percent and 6.3 points per 100.
His shot selection has improved dramatically over the years, choosing shots that make more sense in a modern offense.
As a rookie back in 2014-15, according to Cleaning the Glass, a whopping 27 percent of his attempts were from long midrange. This zone, measured from the free-throw line extended to the three-point line, is widely considered the least efficient in basketball. This year, he has taken them on just 1 percent of his total attempts.
Meanwhile, another point of success is how well he has been able to execute as the ballhandler in pick-and-roll sets.
I mean, this is just an absolute demolition by Joe Ingles, Jordan Clarkson and Rudy Gobert in pick-and-rolls against this Dallas defense. Haven’t seen a pick-and-roll attack just flat out destroy a defense like this in a long time.
— Sam Vecenie (@Sam_Vecenie) January 28, 2021
Clarkson has developed good chemistry on screen and rolls with Derrick Favors, who was a key pickup for the Jazz this offseason, and Rudy Gobert.
He is averaging 1.12 points per possession on PnR actions, per Synergy.
Among all players who have recorded 100 opportunities on this play type, only three have been more efficient: Stephen Curry, Kawhi Leonard and Damian Lillard.
But it’s not as just his ability as a scorer that has stood out so far this season, as Sarah Todd argues (via Deseret News):
“Jordan Clarkson can do everything. Period. I don’t ever want to hear him described purely as a guy who can get a bucket. He’s completely changed and evolved and improved his game and is a lot more committed on the defensive end than he gets credit for. Whether it’s spin moves, getting low against crafty guards, hitting contested shots, knocking down open 3-pointers or blocking shots, Clarkson is nearly always making good plays.”
His primary skill will still be his sparkplug scoring and ability to heat up in a pinch. But thus far, his defensive rebound percentage (12.6 percent) and steal percentage (1.6 percent) are both the best marks of his career.
Utah has outscored opponents by 9.7 points per 100 possessions when he has been on the floor. Clarkson is making a huge impact for the Jazz and has been crucial in helping them dominate this season.
If the season progresses in a similar fashion for Clarkson, there is little doubt he will win the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year.