Ask any Los Angeles Lakers fan and they’ll tell you: there aren’t a lot of bright spots for them so far this season.
Their 37-year-old star Kobe Bryant is looking like…well, a 37-year-old. Second overall pick D’Angelo Russell has yet to put a string of successful games together, and last year’s top pick in Julius Randle is good, but still finding his groove.
Defense is still a significant issue (second worst in the NBA in opponent points per game heading into Thursday night’s games) and outside of Nick Young and Lou Williams, the team is getting just as little from its bench as it is from its starters.
So, what do Lakers fans have to be optimistic about?
Jordan Clarkson, that’s what.
Despite a continued negative trend for the team overall, Clarkson is progressing in the right direction following his somewhat Cinderella season last year in which he went from a second round pick and an afterthought to a First Team All-Rookie selection and a guy who many are looking at as an impact player in the Lakers’ future.
Many speculated how Clarkson would follow up on his surprising rookie showing and, thus far in the 2015 basketball calendar year, he has more than answered the bell.
Clarkson started the offseason picking up where he left of in the Las Vegas Summer League, averaging 16.8 points per game on 41 percent shooting from the field and looking like the team’s most lethal offensive weapon in all five games. Clarkson has carried that fire into the regular season and is having a stellar start, averaging 14.4 points per game (15th among point guards) on 47 percent shooting from the field (sixth among point guards).
In addition, Clarkson has drastically improved his three-point shooting (up to 38 percent from 31 percent last season) to become one of the team’s most consistent threats from deep, and he’s also showing growth on the defensive end with both his blocks and steals per game up from last year.
Yet, despite all of this improvement, Clarkson continues to be overlooked by Laker fans and fans of the game across the country, constantly being overshadowed by the flashy potential of Russell or the bruising, hybrid forward talent of Julius Randle when the topic of who will lead the next-gen Lakers comes up.
Clarkson’s body of work so far shows he is more than capable of playing the part, as he is clearly the best and most effective player on this season’s Lakers roster. He’s even got the flare and eyebrow-raising athleticism that draws people to franchise players. I mean, have you seen him dunk?
It’s clear that Byron Scott and his staff understand the magnitude of Clarkson’s talents; he’s leading the team in minutes per game with 30.4 a night. He’s shown the ability to carry the load offensively and do so efficiently, as evidenced by his 30-point performance against Denver where he shot an astounding 63 percent from the field on 19 shots. Yet, the average NBA fan has nearly no idea who Clarkson is.
It’s understandable that the team is relying heavily upon the growth of players with overwhelming potential in Russell and Randle.
However, Clarkson is ready to be the guy right now. He has shown that he is the type of player a franchise can rely on to perform night in and night out and should be rewarded with the respect he deserves. If Clarkson continues to make strides in his development the way he has thus far, he may surpass both of his young counterparts as the Lakers’ most valuable player going forward.