The Utah Jazz can’t afford to lose Jordan Clarkson

Jordan Clarkson’s arrival in the Salt Lake Valley in late December was everything the Utah Jazz needed to inject life into the team. Heading into the offseason, keeping him on Quin Snyder’s roster must be viewed as a top priority.

I don’t care how closely you follow the Utah Jazz, you — along with just about every other NBA “smart guy” on earth — had no idea Jordan Clarkson would have as big an impact on the team as he did. And I’m not just referring to his bench scoring; his influence reached the entire team.

Last year, Christmas came early for Jazz fans. Only two days before the big day, Utah acquired Clarkson from the Cleveland Cavaliers in exchange for Dante Exum and a pair of second-round picks. Many within #TakeNote Nation were sorry to see Exum go, but it was time to move on.

Things would work out, though — in only 34 regular season games with the Jazz, Clarkson would prove himself to be one of the best mid-season acquisitions in the history of the franchise.

His name was even mentioned as a possible candidate for the Sixth Man of the Year Award.

Flowery language aside, the skinny of Clarkson’s 2019-2020 campaign in Jazz purple is worth examining: 15.6 points per game, 2.9 rebounds per game and even 1.6 assists per game.

Still, Clarkson’s most known for his shooting:

  • With the Jazz, he shot 36.6 percent from three-point land.
  • With the Jazz, he shot 78.0 percent from the free-throw line.
  • With the Jazz, he shot 48.2 percent from the field — the highest of his career.

He fared well on the advanced metrics side of things, too.

Career highs in both box plus-minus (+1.6) and true shooting percentage (58.3) will have a positive effect on a guy’s NBA résumé. He didn’t stop there — in 25.3 minutes per game, Clarkson also posted his career’s second-best points per 75 possessions (22.8) output.

The thing that stands out most in the mind of this writer, however, was Clarkson’s willingness to single-handedly take over late in tight games when Rudy Gobert or Donovan Mitchell struggled.

Writing for Forbes, Andy Bailey also noticed Clarkson’s dependable scoring:

“During his time with the Jazz, the team scored 117.5 points per 100 possessions when he was on the floor, an offensive rating that ranked in the 96th percentile league-wide. Prior to his arrival, Utah’s bench scored 27.1 points per game, a mark that ranked 29th. From Dec. 23 on, it scored 35.9 points per game, which ranked 20th.”

Not everything’s “rainbows” and “cotton candy” with Clarkson, though …

The guy might very well have already played his final game in Salt Lake City.

Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, without any kind of postseason, there’s a real chance the season is over. Should that be the case, the offseason is upon us, and Clarkson’s an unrestricted free agent in a class with few big-ticket prospects. Having made a name for himself as a bonafide scoring threat off the bench, teams will be willing to throw serious money at him to improve.

There’s a flip side to all of this coronavirus madness, though: because of it, the salary cap is destined to drop. Teams will have less money to spend on Clarkson’s services. And while the Jazz aren’t immune to this kind of fallout, they do own Clarkson’s Bird Rights. If they feel he’s a sizable part of what they do, they can go over the salary cap to keep him in the Beehive State.

Justin Zanik and Dennis Lindsey made a game-changing move bringing Clarkson onboard. Making him a meaningful, long-term part of the Jazz’s future is the next item on the agenda.

Do it to it.

Next: Please, no more video games, Donovan Mitchell