The career high Jordan Clarkson scored in yet another loss for the Los Angeles Lakers is driving some fans and media members a bit overboard, referring to him as a future star for the franchise. Jeremy Lin is a better point guard and overall player than the rookie, but probably is better off playing somewhere else next season.
Clarkson is getting minutes over the last six weeks that he never got before. He averaged 27.5 minutes a night in February, averaging 13.8 points per game. It has risen to 32.8 minutes per game, averaging 16.5 points a night. Clarkson can score. He’s a 6’5 guard who plays the point but doesn’t pass very well, and it has nothing to do with his assists numbers (4.8 over the last five games). He simply doesn’t see the floor as you’d like your floor manager to, and doesn’t look for the pass unless he has to most of the time.
Now Clarkson and Lin do have minutes together, but one thing comes to mind and is easy to spot when looking at the two players’ numbers from the last six games: Except for one occasion (The 3 point win over the Jazz on February 25), Lin always finished with a better +/- than Clarkson, often substantially better. Lin makes players around him better. He pulls this team, as ragged and beaten up as it is, forward. Clarkson? He knows how to score, but doesn’t really make the Lakers better or more dangerous. Not when he’s on his own in the backcourt.
It makes some sense to try and hang on to every sliver of hope from an awful season, in which the Lakers have won just 16 games so far, and aren’t likely to win a whole lot more – not when the front office wants to tank as badly as possible, and the head coach is too bad to actually improve this team or teach his young players something worthwhile. One thing we’ve seen from Scott’s work over the years; he rarely leaves a positive imprint anywhere he works.
Lin, until the loss to the Grizzlies, was on something of a roll. Well, anything can be considered “getting hot” compared to what Lin has gone through since arriving in LA, which includes being put next to the soul sucking experience of playing next to Kobe Bryant. He got toyed around by Scott, got benched for Ronnie Price who shouldn’t be even playing NBA basketball and is simply waiting for the chances. The last couple of weeks, for the first time this season, gave him an opportunity to show his ability in more than just an isolated occasion.
The Lakers are trying to get something out of this season other than a high draft pick. Player development would be nice. Clarkson, enjoying plenty of minutes and touches and the backing of his head coach, is somewhat of a poster boy to “we’re actually developing something for the future” despite being an OK scorer and nothing more. Nothing special in terms of shooting, vision, defense. You name it. He might be a slight steal considering he’s a 46th overall pick, but a lot of things thrive given the time and the opportunity while Bryant isn’t around.
But has Clarkson done something for the team? Rarely. He seems more like a player on a contract year trying his best to impress by putting up big numbers, and it seems to be working for him; at least he’s getting support from the head coach, which in this situation, makes all the difference. The Lakers have looked better and even won a few games because Lin was once again involved. Maybe not as much as he should be, but more than before. But this team isn’t for him. Not with this coach, not with their injured star. He still needs to impress in the month or so remaining this season, but advancing his career goes hand in hand with leaving the Lakers.