Los Angeles Lakers vs Orlando Magic
Fri Feb 6, 7:00 PM EST – TWSN, FSFL
Line: ORL -4.5, O/U: 201.0
Amway Center – Orlando, FL
Those who follow me on this site or on other platforms know that I have had my fair share of critiques of Byron Scott (maybe more than my fair share). They started when his name was thrown into the ring as a candidate, continued when it was becoming clear he was likely to be the choice, and flowed right into the season with some of his comments on strategy and the tactics he’s displayed on the court.
Wednesday’s Buck’s game was another example as the Lakers lost the game in overtime after giving up a game tying three in the closing seconds of regulation. Forward thinking strategy says that in those situations — up three in the closing seconds while on defense — a team should foul to put the offense at the foul line where they cannot do better than get two points. This approach reduces the probability of a game tying shot and puts the team that is ahead in a better position to win. What, then, was Byron thinking heading into the final possession?
Lakers did not foul OJ Mayo, who hit three to force OT. Scott: "The philosophy is not to foul. I guess I might change that."
— Mark Medina (@MarkG_Medina) February 5, 2015
Again, this may seem like piling on. But when the coach comments that he’d prefer not to foul in the closing seconds while up three, even when there was clear opportunity to do so (the Bucks’ play involved a dribble hand-off where the player who gave Mayo the ball had his back to the basket in no position to shoot while getting fouled) he’s exhibiting a poor “philosophy”.
Let’s disregard these things for a moment, however. Late game mistakes are made and, as noted in the quote he gave, Byron isn’t above trying to sort through his current process and adjust. That last point is important because as the season has progressed, Scott deserves credit for how he’s attempted to adapt to the changing nature of his team (due to injuries and what projects to be another losing campaign). The question, however, is whether he has adjusted enough.
When it was announced that Byron would become the coach, part of what I wrote was the need for him to strike the proper balance between today’s and tomorrow’s goals:
What Byron will control, though, are the lineups, offensive and defensive schemes, minute allocations, and the functioning of the locker room. It will be on him to decide how much or little Kobe Bryant plays, how much veterans should get time over younger players, and how to best develop the talent he has at his disposal. It will be on him to navigate expectations and balance short term success with long term goals and the overall health of the franchise moving forward. He will be that steward who has been given the keys at a time that, for all intents and purposes, may be one of the more important in recent franchise history.
This Lakers’ team is squarely at the stage where they are clearly not a contender for a championship but still trying to win games and do so while looking for cornerstone young players who can carry the torch after Kobe Bryant retires. That is one of the finest lines to walk as an organization and, more often than not, ends up being impossible. Whether he is up to the task of being the guy who steers the ship during this time remains to be seen, but I think it’s more than fair to question if he is.
Scott has taken solid steps towards the future by inserting Jordan Clarkson into the starting lineup, doing the same for Ryan Kelly, and inserting Tarik Black into the rotation. Even in doing that, though, Scott remains parked on the fence rather than moving completely to the side of trying to develop his young players.
While Clarkson starts, he has not always been finishing games and only averages 5 minutes in the 4th quarter this year. Ryan Kelly is getting burn, but almost all of it comes at small forward, rather than at his more natural position of power forward. Kelly’s stretch ability is being limited in this role as SF’s are quicker to close out on him and are limiting his ability to get his shot off in space. Meanwhile Boozer is still a key part of the rotation — and he is playing quite well, too — which puts a crunch on the available minutes at PF and C, limiting how much court time players like Kelly, Black, Davis, and even Sacre can see in any given game.
Coaches — at least those not in Philly or Boston — are pretty much all judged on their win/loss record. And maybe Scott feels that pressure to win games too and is trying to walk that line between getting his young players minutes while still leaning on his veterans in key moments. But one has to wonder if he should swing in the other direction, go to his young players even more and put them in better positions to succeed by slotting them into roles that best fit their current skill sets. This may limit the potential for wins, but as we’ve seen — and was clear in the Bucks’ game — the team is finding ways to lose games anyway.
What does this have to do with the game against the Magic tonight? Nothing, really. But as Scott peers across the sideline to his counterpart, he’ll see that the fellow who was supposed to be standing there — Jacque Vaughn — is gone now. Yesterday the former point guard was handed his walking papers as the Magic flounder through another season, running unimaginative offensive sets with inconsistent lineups that didn’t always try to maximize the growth of the young players. Funny, some of that sounds familiar. Scott, might take note of that and realize that he has a couple more years on his contract and with this season pretty much lost, it might be time to start shifting things up to accomplish some of the other organizational goals that don’t involve winning. Especially if he wants to build a foundation where winning can actually happen with some of these younger players he’ll need in a couple of years. That is if he’s still here.
Where you can watch: 4pm start time on TWC Sportsnet. Also listen on ESPN Radio 710AM Los Angeles.
Thomas Rickard says
I’ve been a Lakers fan since they moved to LA, and as I watched the game against Milwaukee I found myself on the fence, do I actually want them to hit the 3 pointer, why didn’t you foul when it went into the paint, I know the future is in losing, I’ve analyzed schedules and think it’s very possible that Lakers won’t win 20 games, it’s even possible now that Wolves are healthy the Lakers could finish last, but when the game is being played and they’re working hard, I find my self cheering for the moment, and try and forget how much the last 2 wins last year cost,the fence is very uncomfortable.
Good post. I would attach one caveat, though, in that we won’t really be able to establish how much the late-season Young/Kaman-led wins in 2014 cost the organization for awhile. Randle may be really good; no one knows right now. That said, it certainly did cost the team a few ping-pong balls, and who knows how that might have played out.
Lot of good coaches don’t foul in that situation…..Also when judging Scott I would base it on if the future players are getting better…Clarkson is ….Black started playing after Scott saw him in practice.(Yes)…Davis is playing better than earlier in his career and he wants to stay a Laker(Yes)….Kelly is a no.Kelly is just not that good…period.Also Ellington is getting better.Team is playing hard and the defense (points against is going down)….is improving.Scott is fine.
Darius Soriano says
the defense (points against is going down)….is improving.
Gene, the Lakers are still 29th in defensive efficiency. They are bad defensively. I can live with using the young players “improving” as a standard, but are they really improving? Davis has been this same player for some time in his career. Black is playing just as he did when he had to step in for injured Dwight.
As for Kelly, last season, primarily playing PF, when he was on the floor the Lakers had an elite level offense. Like, at a level that would have led the league over the course of a full season, level. I don’t think Kelly is as world beater by any means, but playing him at SF is a mistake now just as it was last year.
And, yes, Scott deserves credit for the players playing hard. Just as D’Antoni deserved it when the Lakers played hard last year. Though, if I recall correctly, many pointed to those guys playing hard because they were almost all on 1-year contracts who were playing for their basketball lives and, theoretically, their next job. Lo and behold, the only players who have a guaranteed contract for next season are Kobe, Randle, Nick Young, and Ryan Kelly. Two of those guys are out for the season. So, yeah, give Scott credit, but the same principle as last season applies to this one.
bryan S. says
Looking forward to seeing Clarkson going against Elfrid Payton, a player I really liked (as did the Lakers) in the draft. Payton’s on the ball defense is already very good. Like Clarkson, he has struggled finishing at the rim. Payton’s pg skills are better, but Clarkson has the edge as a scorer. and shooter. Also, Aaron Gordon is finally able to play after surprisingly being taken fourth in the draft. A loss is a win for both teams.
That Bryon can sure coach those 4th quarters?
Wes is not very good.
Ha ha ha that Wes is a real keeper.
In the WNBA
Coaching to lose by BS
Way to go bs. Expert at tanking. This team doesn’t deserve to lose last 2 games no proper substitution and coaching
…stay with me here…
…don’t let the other team be within three points at the end of the game.
So there you have it, bs doesn’t give a damn what twitter says, clarkson was left in to get experience even tho there was no leadership on the floor.
I don’t know why I’ve watched every game this season. I guess to not be a fair weather fan but this is ruthless. Seriously, I hope we go like 16-66 and get the first pick. I really don’t want to bail on this season as far as following the team but what’s the point. None of these guys are part of our future. I know Clarkson has some flashes but will he ever be a top 25 pg? I feel bad for just bailing on the season but this is just a junk team with nothing for the future and no Kobe to root for. Just please let the spurs and warriors lose in the first round. I hate the spurs as any LA fan should and I can’t bear to see another Cali team get the title. 🙁 this sucks
BS is the “best” coach for a team who likes to snatch defeat away from the jaws of victory! The tank is definitely on, he just doesn’t (can’t) admit it in his post game pressers! Getting closer and closer to the top seed in tankathon.com!! 🙂
Caught Golden State/Atlanta on LP As we all know, both teams use some of the San Antonio principles on offense–getting guys in spots early in the shot clock, setting screens early before the D gets set, constant focus on spacing and ball movement. Some of that comes from Europe/SSOL and other places too, of course. One thing I saw was that both teams have multiple guys who can space the floor from any position. Guys like Barnes, Green, Carroll and Scott can all play the 4 and all will sometimes be at the 3P line.
But…it still comes back to personnel. Millsap, Horford, and Teague are just better than a lot of people thought, IMO.
Craig W. says
I don’t think I am in a position to say who should be in the game at the finish. Especially when the reason for the loss wasn’t the personnel on the floor.
Byron Scott simply cannot coach offense – he relies on a superstar level player to be successful – Jason Kidd, Chris Paul, Kobe Bryant. If he doesn’t have a player who will take over the team in the fourth quarter, he simply cannot adjust.
Looking at the team tonight, there was no movement and the ball-handler was left to dribble into trap-after-trap-after-trap. It didn’t matter who had the ball, the result was the same. When the defense gets serious as the games come to a close, there seems to be no plan, no rotations, and no movement – it is all one-on-one. It is so obvious and so consistent, regardless of the personnel, that the only conclusion one can come to is that Bryon Scott cannot coach offense. Perhaps he should delegate this part of the game to one of his assistants – he is simply a failure here.
Byron Scott simply cannot coach offense – he relies on a superstar level player to be successful – Jason Kidd, Chris Paul, Kobe Bryant.
This is true to an extent, and I and others have said as much many times. But it was clear that this was the case well before the hire was made.
On another note: Dwight Howard is out for at least a month, and the pick that Houston sent here with Lin is lottery-protected. So, obviously, it is in the Lakers’ interest for Houston to make postseason but drop to a 7th seed or so. They are in 3rd at 35-15, but are only 3.5 up on SA, currently in 7th.
The league has definitely embraced small ball. Atlanta went small and forced Bogut to the bench. At one point Green was playing the five for GS. I give Atlanta a lot of credit. They are hungry and play with a lot of poise.
I think a lot of today’s NBA offense had its origin during the Lakers three peat at the turn of the century because of the dominance of one Shaquille O’Neal. Shaq’s omnipotence led to the legalization of zone defenses and allowed teams to pack the lane, putting a premium on shooting and spreading the floor. Teams had been using covert zone defenses for years, but once they were legalized zones became more sophisticated.
We constantly hear about the lack of post play and the “lost art of the midrange game.” Again, it’s just my opinion that zone defenses have contributed mightily to both trends. As I look at games around the league, it seems that the three pointer is king. It’s not the game I grew up watching.
Byron Scott simply cannot coach offense – he relies on a superstar level player to be successful – Jason Kidd, Chris Paul, Kobe Bryant.
The whole great plan was to have 4 bad Players throw the ball to Kobe and he shoots 30 times a Game. How’d that work out Jimmy and Time Warner?
Bad coach and bad plan.
Watch hiwa. Well coached team with no super stars play.
Unfortunately their record without Dwight has been just as good as with him this entire season.
Aaron, I do believe you called it right about DH … didn’t you mention a couple – three years ago that you thought his best days were behind him?
… that would certainly seem to be the case …
Heck of a post, LKK!
People forget that prior to his injury Horford was a highly touted player and an all-star. Atlanta’s GM was derided for the team he assembled now his team’s the darling of the league.
So there is hope!
Craig W. says
It is not so much that Byron was not deserving of consideration. He does have some credentials and it is not unreasonable to think he could learn. While I was not a great supporter of his hire, neither was I ready to lynch the front office for that decision. He really has a connection to the Lakers and he did have success with talent that handled the ball. Then the Lakers presumed Kobe would be available this entire year – yeah, yeah we can all say we told you so, but you bet the hand in front of you and not one you would like to have.
What has become clear is that Byron was not only influenced by Pat Riley, but he was confined within his coaching structure. Magic is a bad requirement for a PG because he can’t be replicated.
The nuance of the modern game has apparently been lost on Byron Scott, because he can’t seem to see how to help these young, modern players rely on anything but themselves to advance the game. Teams need a leader, not just an organizer and cheerleader – Byron needs to be that leader, but he apparently doesn’t have the X’s and O’s or in-game management skills.
What has become clear is that Byron was not only influenced by Pat Riley, but he was confined within his coaching structure.
Yeah, I have said this a few times as well. I was not killing the FO for the hire, although I made it clear at the time that I would have rather they had tried a new guy. But I do think that the people who are killing Scott every day (not meaning you) should acknowledge that he came here as a known commodity.
For tanking fans:
Minnesota has Rubio, Pekovic, and Martin back and is 4-4 with Rubio in the lineup this year. NY and PHL have also been doing a bit better. Orlando broke a nine-game losing streak tonight, so the Lakers are almost certainly the worst team in the NBA right now.
the other Stephen says
Atlanta’s turnaround might not be the most appropriate example. Ferry arrived in Atlanta last season, whereupon he quickly hired Budenholzer, removed the albatross of Josh Smith’s contract, and the Hawks very nearly upset the top-seeded Pacers in the playoffs. These changes sent a pretty strongly positive signal to the fanbase, despite the uninspiring roster, and I don’t think there was ever much opportunity for derision.
Meanwhile, we have the same old front office and decision-making apparatus. RR recently exhorted me not to get caught up in day-to-day tactics, but the FO’s strategy and structure aren’t any prettier. >_<
Good points. I will say as well that I think that the “hope” that CHearn was referring to lies partly in the fact that Atlanta has a really good team without having a Top-5 player. But, of course, building a team like that takes time and patience and historically, such teams don’t often win championships. But I think Atlanta does arguably offer a hopeful example if you look at their team from a certain angle.
I would also add that Ferry was able to trade Joe Johnson’s deal not long after taking over as GM, a contract that many observers thought would be almost impossible to move.
In one game doses, Atlanta presents serious problems. Thus, their stellar regular season to date. The test of course will be the playoffs. Can they handle the Cavs or Bulls in the East? We shall see. As many point out, championship teams invariably have one or two true stars. It’s trendy to point to the Spurs as the model to follow but the Spurs have 3 future HOFers who are playoff tested. And a young stud in Leonard. That kinda helps when you’re “sharing the ball”.
Some really great games last night. Westbrook and Anthony Davis on a show against each other with Davis making an unbelievable game-winning three. ATL vs. GSW. Indiana put a good whipping on the “King” and his Cavs. I miss the days when the Lakers were part of the mix. A lot.
Re: Scott -agreed his foundation in coaching was based on Riley and playing with three Hall of Famers. I’m among those that wanted to go in another direction. However, if you look at it from a rebuilding perspective he’s fine. He’ll absorb the losses that we need to in order to get better. He signed a four year deal but my gut told me he would only be here two – till Kobe rolls off the books. Scott is a limited and when the Lakers turn the talent corner they will need a new coach.
About the only thing you can say about last night (and the Mil game, and several others) is that the Lakers are competing. Not only are the young guys getting burn, their minutes aren’t just garbage time.
That’s not much consolation when you lose to Orlando, but I think it does make a difference losing close, theoretically meaningful games. Scott’s offensive system is weak, as many have pointed out, but at least these games haven’t degenerated into streetball and endless one-on-two (or three) isos.
J C says
Craig nice post and game analysis.
It’s clear now how even a good-intentioned guy that bleeds purple and gold can still be tragically ineffective as a coach.
Last night’s loss was a victory for the pro-tankers and sadly I’m becoming one of them.
When the coach benches a veteran who’s having a decent game (Lin) at the end, just so a guy like Clarkson can get ‘experience’ it’s just like saying, I don’t care about winning.
And by the way, this just in – Clarkson is an average ball-handler at best and does not think ‘pass first’ as he has now demonstrated often enough to declare his intentions. So I don’t think he’s our long-term answer at the PG.
the other Stephen says
Oh, you’re right. I also thought Ferry traded Joe Johnson, but couldn’t remember. Another Ferry coup included striking early in free agency to land Paul Millsap, who has been brilliant on defense and offense, for only $19 million over two years. With Millsap hitting free agency again at the end of this season, and both him and Horford reaching the middle of their primes, I wonder how big Atlanta’s window of opportunity is.
Craig W. says
Millsap is not exactly an unknown commodity. He is another smaller player for his position and certainly relies on the system to be effective. Smart GMs may avoid him because they don’t run a system consistent with his talents and mediocre GMs may avoid him because of his size. He is like Fareid, in that his game is effort and some bulk – with a better shot.
I give ATA the best shot to retain Paul Millsap.
If Scott is taken out in two seasons, then Jimbo should go out too with him. Jimbo is fools gold, opposite of Midas touch, whatever he touches and have chosen, turned out to be a disaster. Yes, we’re after youth rebuild through tanking but this is very un-Lakerliked to hop on to this route. It is a waste of our money and also our time to be underachiever and spend time watching on undesirables. This is not LA, it is pure Jim Buss choices or bad luck. LA brand should be vibrant and alive being in the center of entertainment. I’m sure the Buss boys in the blog will defend him with all kinds of excuses but these last three seasons are my worst moments as a Laker fan.
Craig W. says
Another player we have been talking about – Ed Davis – I would give the Lakers a really good chance to retain him, unless someone really comes in with a ‘highball’ offer that makes no sense. Ed has been with two clubs previously and knows what being buried on the bench is like. The Lakers have allowed him to insure he has a reasonably long NBA career and I would think he doesn’t want to be hidden on anyone’s bench.
He is another smaller player for his position and certainly relies on the system to be effective.
The first part is true, but the second part isn’t. Millsap has been a good player for several years. He is not that great on D, but he has always been quite good on O. Like almost all of the Hawks, he is having a great year shooting the ball.
I don’t claim any special scouting acumen, but my personal opinion on Clarkson is that his future is as a third guard/combo guard, rather as a starting 1, so I agree with you to a large extent.
Craig W. says
For us oldtimers, we remember Jack Kent Cooke. With two of the top five players in the game, we couldn’t do better than Imhoff at center and paid the ultimate price. We stayed up for quite a while, but couldn’t get over the top – remember the balloons and coach van Breda Kolff? After Wilt retired we got Kareem, but didn’t do much for 5 years – until Magic came.
We have had doldrums, we just prefer to think of the good times – and they have been far more frequent with this franchise than with any other.
Craig W. says
Clarkson is a rookie, who has played primarily shooting-guard in his career. He may not work out, but we should give him a couple of years to see if he can be effective at point-guard. The jump from college to NBA is huge – and it is giant at the point-guard spot, in the Western Conference no less.
But before we got Kareem we had Elmore Smith! Anybody else remember him?
Lil pau says
And eldon Campbell. And Travis knight, known as ‘the walking 6 million’ for his statlines of 6 fouls, 0 points, 0 rebounds, 0 assists, 0 blocks, etc…
bryan S. says
Takeaways from last night:
Clarkson vs. Payton: Clarkson had an excellent first half, scoring and moving the ball, and in general looking more proficient, quicker and explosive than his highly regarded counterpart who was taken with the 10th pick. In a sequence that spoke to their respective strengths and weaknesses, Clarkson had the ball picked by Payton at mid-court who then scored. Clarkson then came down court and spotted up for a three. Stu commented that this play showed Clarkson’s competitive spirit–an apt comment as I’ve seen Clarkson “make up” for a miscue with a follow-up play on numerous occasions. The second half wasn’t nearly as good for Clarkson, but on the other hand Payton didn’t stand out either. In the end though, Payton made a clutch lay-up under the rim, and Clarkson missed a fast break lay-up that he should have finished.
Payton: 34M, 2-5 FGA, 2 REB (D), FTA 0, AST 6, STL 2, TO 3
Clarkson: 31M, 6-14 FGA, 2 REB (0), FTA 1-2, AST 6, STL 4. TO 3
Similar stats, but greater productivity by Clarkson. Clarkson has done very well against most opposing pgs since starting, so this is consistent with what we’ve seen. Without a doubt, the Lakers are very high on him, and leaving him in to finish the game speaks to both his perceived potential, and the need to get him experience running the point. (And of course, the not so stealthy tank mission!)
Tobias Harris: Prototypical 3 hitting restricted FA this year. Only 22 , with excellent size and skills. Rumored to have a Nike deal that pays him more if he is in a top 3 market. Turned down the Magic’s qualifying offer. What would it take to pry him away from the Magic? Not a max range player, (his stats don’t support that) but maybe 10-12 mil per. Young and improving–should be a Laker target.
Agree on Clarkson… His upside is as a good back up PG. I would say realistically he is a solid back up PG. As a second round pick that’s a great draft for the FO.
Aaron: Curious abut your outlook for next season (and how we approach the off season). Should we tank (as in our infamous multi-year tank)? Should we get try to get incrementally better? Should we try to make a big move? My fear is that the FO may try the later and set us back a a few more years.
Byron: For all you who do not want to look backward and worry about how we got here – why are we doing this with Byron? He is who he is. He is a caretaker of the brand and a loyal Laker during lean times. If and when we get a roster, we can worry about a super star coach. Nobody would want to come here now anyway and a newbie could not take all of this heat. Byron is perfect for now. Over/under for tenure is 2 1/2 years and I would say that if I was a sports book or if I owned the Lakers.
Baylor Fan says
For other old-timers, Jack Kent Cooke brought the Lakers Jerry West and Elgin Baylor, and Wilt, and especially Francis Dayle Hearn. If those were dog days I hate to think of what these are.
If the Lakers truly do get to keep their pick this year, there would not be any point in tanking next season since the pick would go to Phoenix anyway.
Craig W. says
If you think the 60s were great, talk to Jerry West – he suffered massively through them – and he was the logo. You are right – I wouldn’t want to be the Buffalo Braves, but it was painful to lose at the end each year.
As usual its cercumstance. If a great player or a player that is better than one of the players available to us (with one of our three max slots in 2016 and 2017) becomes available then we can trade Jordan Hill as the salary centerpiece. Under no cercumstances though are any of the players this summer worth a max contract and it’s not smart to sign free agents to anything other than max contracts or min contracts unless you’re already locked into three star max contracts. But in all likely hood the best bet is to tank again for that top three pick.
Obviously threw in the towel in this one, no Lin or Boozer down the stretch. Boozer has played very well lately, better than I thought he had in him.
If the Lakers could sign Tobias Harris, trade for Reggie Jackson (Jordan Hill), keep their protected pick, get Randle back, and put Clarkson at the 2 guard, that would be a solid step in the right direction.
Ah, Elmore Smith. Good shot blocker, horrible hands if I recall.
“Ah, Elmore Smith. Good shot blocker ….”
He was awesome. Wilt called him “Elmo” for some reason …
Yes I remember Jack Kent Cooke, the dictator. Lakers can’t get off the hump during the Celtic era followed by Knickerbockers but my point Lakers were not tanking. They have pride on the purple and gold and keep on competing every year. This season, I am just totally confused, don’t know who to blame on freak injuries every season, players that we got became dumb and dumber as we get also worn out with coaching. I don’t discount that there are peaks and valleys in every season but lakers became so awful that from Championship caliber in 2010 suddenly becomes a loser three seasons later.. There gotta to be a problem with the Jim Buss system, don’t blame the new CBA because everybody gets the same treatment, don’t blame aging Kobe because he can still contribute in offense provided he knows what his role is, you “can lay the blame” on who chose the composition of the roster as well as the coaching who always have the ability to lose momentum in the 4th Q. It is all about tanking, trying to find ways to ward off the mistake in getting Nash. That’s why I say – remove that bad omen, be honorable and quit now than 3 years later. Lakers will never improve with any draft picks for as long as that “Sword of Democles” will still be hanging over their heads.
Good summary of the comparison between Elfrid Payton’s and Jordan Clarkson’s performances from last night’s game. On balance, I thought that Clarkson was more productive than Payton who, at one point, I thought was the best rookie guard in the league from the most recent draft. Right now, I would have to say that Marcus Smart is #1, Payton #2, and Clarkson #3 and gaining. It should be interesting to do a comparison of the same 3 players at the end of the year.
I also like Craig W’s reminder that Clarkson is, after all, only 22 years old. Let’s bear in mind that he may actually be playing out of position at present (which is not necessarily a bad thing for his development) and that he has started fewer than 10 games in his NBA career so far.
As a result, it might be a tad premature for us to be making definitive pronouncements on Clarkson’s “ceiling.” The truth is that at this point we really don’t have a clue as to what that ceiling might be. It’s simply too early to tell. In fact we may not know for another 2 years (or more). Remember that James Harden only averaged 9.9 ppg in his rookie year and 12.2 in his 2nd year. Now Harden’s averaging 27.1 and leading the league. It takes time for a player to develop. There’s no other way.
Below are some areas that Clarkson might work on over the summer:
1) His Shot from outside. Right now Jordan is shooting 39.1% overall and 32.4% from three. He’s a good free throw shooter though: 79%. I expect his percentages to scale up a bit as the year progresses. But his shot can definitely be improved. (The same thing was true of Magic Johnson early in his career.)
2) His Strength and Physicality. Right now, Clarkson is 6-5, 185. That’s down right anorexic. By contrast, James Harden is 6-5, 220. That’s a difference of zero inches in height and 35 lbs. (!) in weight. If and when Clarkson grows to 205 or even 210, which would be entirely do-able, I assure you he will be a vastly different player.
3) His Handle. Clarkson, I believe, is a classic combo-guard, at least at this stage. Whether he plays the 1 or the 2 position in the future, he will have to improve his ball-handling skills and learn to create for others (as does Harden, who averages 6.7 assists per game). I’ve seen enough to think that he can get there. But he definitely has work to do.
4) Learning to Absorb Contact. Clarkson, at this point, kind of slithers away from contact. Much of that may be because of his extremely slight build. But he loves to drive to the hoop. If he can learn to absorb contact (rather than avoid it), I can see him averaging 7-8 FTs per game. But first he has to add muscle and strength. The two items are related.
Personally, I’m really encouraged by what I see. The talent, the quickness, the speed, the length, the hops, and the willingness to defend are all there. In another 2 years we’ll have a much better idea as to the kind of player we have in Jordan Clarkson. But right now, it’s just too early to tell.
Meanwhile, let’s enjoy watching him develop. It could be a fun ride. (At least, I hope so.)
For those who are interested, below is your Karl-Anthony Towns report on his most recent game (tonight’s game, February 7, against Florida):
Shooting: 6-10 from the field
Rebounds: 7 (4 offensive boards)
Elmore Smith! He blocked a heckuva lot of shots. Those were doldrum days …
I was 6 when Jerry West retired and had his poster on my wall. My first real Laker memories were those lost 70s years just before and just after Kareem came over … dreary indeterminate teams that didn’t do anything much at all.
I use “DonFord” here as my own joke of remembering those wayward and punchless teams of the mid 70s …. Don Ford was our sometime power forward … always cracked me up (he didn’t rebound or play d, but at least he couldn’t score).
These current days seem more desperate than those 70s teams (which were at least mostly “decent” if sorta punchless and underwhelming).
Let’s hold our breaths a little longer and see if we can snag a great top 5 pick, plus Randle’s return, maybe a crack signing or two? Magic and Worthy came, let’s see what happens ….
Coach Dean Smith passed away @ age 83. One of the best coaches in the college ranks, sad for his passing. He could have coached the Lakers from their woeful season, teaching Lin, Young, Boozer and Johnson how to play the game the right way with their limited athletic skills.
For ex-Lakers, James Worthy, Sam Perkins and George Lynch;
Their coach and mentor Dean Smith is gone but his basketball and life lessons will endure.
Dean Smith one of the greatest!
Nice post concerning Clarkson. Patience is indeed the key.
bryan S. says
Mid-W: Excellent post on Clarkson. I think you hit on the head with respect to being patient and watch this young guy develop before we pronounce him one thing or another. Your improvement list is spot on. I’d like to see Clarkson gain strength and some weight, but not too much. 10-15 lbs. tops. Don’t want to sacrifice any quickness. His shot is problematic, and I think his low release point has a lot to do with insufficient strength. He needs to work very hard at building the requisite strength so that he can ‘fix’ his shot and absorb contact. I’ve commented before that he can’t really get over screens because he isn’t strong enough. I do think he is closer to 6’3″ than 6’5″, so he isn’t as skinny as you think!
Indeed, patience is the key in regards to Clarkson. He has a boys body but will develop bulk and strength during the ensuing years.