Clarkson set for big step forward in increased role

Four-year vet revamped jumper, added experience in off-season

Alex Hooper
October 09, 2018 - 2:59 pm
Sep 24, 2018; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers guard Jordan Clarkson (8) poses during Cavs Media Day at Cleveland Clinic Courts.

© Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

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Independence, OH (92.3 The Fan) – For the Cleveland Cavaliers to reach their 2018-19 goal of returning to the Eastern Conference playoffs, they will need to become a team with a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.

Most of the parts that remain in a post-LeBron life now have a chance to give more to the team than they did alongside James and his 30.8% usage rate.

Perhaps no player in the wine and gold will have a more increased part than guard Jordan Clarkson.

The 26-year-old earned himself a four-year, $50 million deal from the Los Angeles Lakers in 2016 on the back of two high-scoring, but high-usage years at the Staples Center. Upon being traded to Cleveland at the trade deadline in 2018, Clarkson’s usage dropped to 24.1%, still higher than any full year in Los Angeles, but less than the 27.7% mark he had racked up over 53 games that season.

Clarkson was essentially in charge of his unit off of the bench, offensively, but the Cavaliers’ slow-paced, veteran driven offense did not cater to the needs of one of the league’s most microwave-like scorers. Along with his drop in usage, the guard’s assist% plummeted to a career-low 12% clip in the regular season.

At no point in his tenure did Clarkson look as if he had a clear role on the floor, but in the post-LeBron, push-the-pace era of Tyronn Lue’s Cavaliers, that should change.

Clarkson will still have the opportunity to lead a bench unit as things stand now, and also like his time in LA, he says the pace of play is more along the lines of what he is used to.

“We playing fast, up-tempo,” he said. “We want to score, we want to get out, play that exciting style of play. So I would say that it is similar, but we’re kind of putting our own flavor to it, I guess.”

Also noticeable is the change in Clarkson’s jump shot, which had a distinct and exaggerated vault forward.

That leap looked to be ironed out of the swingman’s shot at practice on Tuesday, with a more up and down motion, and slightly less movement forward.

Clarkson admitted to making changes in the lift of his shot, which could at least partly be attributed to the change along his body’s x- and y-axes.

“Shooting last year, a lot of shots was flat, stuff like that,” he said. “Just focusing on getting the ball up, getting a lot of reps up so I’m just comfortable shooting it like that all the time now.

“Yeah. Feel thing, and it comes with reps. It was a quick change for me, just trusting it, getting it in the air. Definitely a feel thing, but putting in all the time this summer, it’s kind of come to me really easy.”

Aside from refining his shot, Clarkson stayed busy in the off-season by playing for the Philippines in the 2018 Asian Games after the NBA granted him a one-time exception to take part in a non-FIBA-sanctioned event.

Clarkson’s mother, Annette Davis, is half Filipino, and her son holds dual citizenship.

The four-year NBA vet was able to add more experience to his game prior to his penultimate year under his contract, experience will also supplement his heightened role.

“It helped a lot,” he said. “That style of play is different. A lot of dribble-drive stuff. The way they move is different. It helped the game slow down for me. Now seeing going through training camp, scrimmages and practices, it helped slow the game down for me. It’s helped me a lot. A lot of people say that when you go over and play that style of game, it helps. It really did.”