It took Jordan Clarkson three games to do what the rest of the Jazz’s bench couldn’t in 30: score 20 points.
Scoring, of course, is not the only measure of bench success, but it’s not exactly a bad thing, either. And more to the point, it was something that the Jazz’s bench was spectacularly woeful at, being ranked 28th in bench scoring before the deal.
Clarkson seems to have rectified that in a single swoop, at least for the time being. His array of drives to the rim, stepback jumpers, and 3-point shots off screens gives the Jazz someone who can score the ball immediately. Joe Ingles thought back to Clarkson’s first game, where he immediately created something that no other Jazz player would have.
“The shot clock was under four and he was calling for it! He wanted the ball to create a shot,” Ingles said. “That’s what we need. We needed someone like that.”
Clarkson’s teammates remind him of their need for him to be aggressive on a regular basis, something that he says gives him confidence to do his thing.
“Letting me, you know, really be free. I’m just trying to get everything down, all the terminology, all the plays, and everybody’s really doing a good job helping me,” Clarkson said. “So I’m open ears, free minded, trying to get it together.”
Just getting a shot up represents a significant improvement for the Jazz’s bench, which has been turnover-prone at times. Jazz general manager Justin Zanik specifically pointed to Clarkson’s low-turnover play as something the team’s brass liked about him.
Another winning point: Clarkson’s health record during his six seasons in the NBA. He’s played in at least 79 games every season since his rookie campaign, and that year, he mostly missed NBA time due to playing in the G League. Of course, that’s in sharp contrast to Dante Exum’s health record, the player Clarkson was acquired for.
“So there’s a health performance piece that we can just plug him in and he can start absorbing minutes … hopefully very quickly,” Dennis Lindsey, Jazz VP of basketball operations, pointed out — though he prefaced his comments by saying “knock on wood.”
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Jazz coach Quin Snyder is happy with his player’s contributions so far, but wants to “coach him hard,” not considering the 27-year-old a finished product. The two could be seen at Jazz shootaround on Monday at the back of Zions Bank Basketball Campus, chatting for several minutes. In particular, Snyder knows that for Clarkson to show off his scoring talents, he’ll have to be a capable part of the team on the defensive end, too.
“I think from what I’ve seen, he really has a passion for both ends of the floor,” Snyder said.
That’s not what Clarkson has been known for throughout his career. While he’s always averaged at least 10 points per game, Clarkson’s teams have been worse defensively with him on the floor — at least, until the last two seasons.
It’s interesting. Clarkson is sometimes laissez-faire on offense with his mindset, which allows him to react to what the defense is doing. That attitude might have hurt him on the defensive end, but now, Clarkson says he has two mindsets, depending on which team has the ball.
“I’m really concentrating on the game plan and how to help my team,” Clarkson said. “I have a free mind, not a lot of thinking going into it on the offensive side. Then, I try to lock in our coverages [defensively]."
Perhaps it says a lot that Clarkson was — according to Lindsey — a player that Snyder inquired about the Jazz acquiring over the summer. Snyder’s been a defense-first coach during his entire Utah tenure, but he’s pragmatic, too. He knows the Jazz needed scoring. Now, they’ve gotten it, in the form of Clarkson.
“He’s got an enthusiasm about him, you can tell he really loves to play,” Snyder said.
That’s exactly what the bench needed.