The Lakers Summer League team wrapped up their stint in Las Vegas over the weekend, and despite their 1-4 record, the team displayed notable flashes of a potentially prosperous future for the purple and gold. Now, fans understandably remain restless about the team’s disappointing performance and with that, Silver Screen & Roll’s Harrison Faigen provided perspective on their struggles (Hint: It’s OK):
They may have a fire to win and improve that goes beyond their years, but Russell is just a 19-year-old rookie that still wants to use a Gatorade bottle as a microphone to ask questions to Clarkson in a post-win media scrum. Randle is basically a rookie after barely playing more than 10 regular season minutes last year. Clarkson is 23, but is only a year removed from being the 46th overall pick in the NBA draft. While this core may have plenty of promise, the reality is they require some patience while they grow.
Madsen was quick to blame the team’s sluggish start against New York on it being a “mistake” to give the team a day off on Sunday. He may be right, but just as responsible was the Princeton offense the team was attempting to quickly implement and run to effectiveness despite very little practice time. The fact that grind-out halfcourt possessions is pretty much the opposite of what this team’s strengths should be only made it harder to witness.
In the interest of Summer League, the team’s most consistent performer was, without question, Jordan Clarkson. Last week, we recommended a piece that focused on his transition into a combo-guard role for the upcoming season (which you can read here). Now to continue with the theme of his development, Sports Illustrated’s Rob Mahoney detailed how Clarkson’s proficiency as a midrange shooter is bucking a trend of the new, long distance-oriented NBA:
Lakers guard Jordan Clarkson has a counterpoint game. While the broader trends of the league encourage guards to drive headlong to the rim or launch up three-pointers at will, Clarkson has carved out an immediate, intentional niche from midrange. In doing so, the 23-year-old works as something of an exploit. Modern NBA defenses are built to take away specific kinds of shots. Clarkson operates in a way that mines that give and take, stepping into the wide open midrange shots that many defenses naturally concede.
“It’s all two points,” Clarkson said. “Getting there and getting to those spots is definitely an emphasis because I think they’re easy shots for me.”
The majority of NBA teams now guard pick-and-rolls with some variation of a “drop” scheme—in which the big man defending the screener hangs back around the foul line—specifically because the midrange pull-up is a hard shot to hit consistently. It can be rushed. It can be crowded. By default it returns fewer points per possession than a three-point jumper or an attempt from the restricted area, which is why those spaces on the floor are now defensive priorities.
For more on Clarkson and how he is aiming to build upon his success last season, Mark Medina of the Daily News took an in-depth look at Clarkson’s growth from last year’s draft up to this year’s showing in Vegas. The piece details a few specific measures Clarkson is taking to improve upon each aspect of his game, and yes, that includes expanding his range:
DiFrancesco said Clarkson has added 10 to 15 pounds in muscle, increasing his weight from 180 to between 190-195 pounds. Clarkson has completed various strength exercises two days a week, including chin-ups, bench presses, squats, dead lifts and band resistance drills, and focuses two other days on leg exercises.
The Lakers believe this will make Clarkson more equipped to defend stronger guards, finish with more efficiency and minimize injury to any tendons.
Meanwhile, Clarkson narrowed his focus with Hanlen on three things nearly every day.
To improve his outside shooting, Clarkson altered his balance by jumping straight up and tweaked his release point by raising his right elbow.
To improve his pick-and-roll execution, Clarkson has dropped his hips and relaxed his chest so that he can move at a more methodical and efficient pace.
To improve his finishing at the rim, Clarkson has varied his attempts with both hands.
If interested in more on Clarkson’s background, work ethic, the pre-draft process and his honest perspective on last season, the above pieces certainly deserve a read.