Utah Jazz: Jordan Clarkson’s perfectly timed breakthrough season

Utah Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson (Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports)
Utah Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson (Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports) /

There’s no more crucial NBA sixth man than Utah Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson.

Since being traded to the Utah Jazz from the Cleveland Cavaliers in December 2019, the trajectory of Jordan Clarkson’s career has changed dramatically. While the 6-foot-4 playmaker has been a reliable scorer for every team he’s played on, he’s become one of the most important players on a Utah team that has locked up the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference.

Clarkson has had a breakthrough season and is a favorite to win the league’s Sixth Man of the Year Award. His production off the bench has played a big role in the team’s success, and the Jazzmen will rely on him as they look to make a deep postseason run.

Here are a few things that have made the 28-year-old stand out throughout the 2020-21 NBA season…

Potent scoring as the Utah Jazz’s key bench weapon

Jordan Clarkson has never been one to shy away from putting up shots, whether they are contested or not. Scoring has always been his best attribute.

Under head coach Quin Snyder, however, his ability to put up points has been amplified.

Despite drawing only one starting nod this season, the former Missouri Tiger is averaging a career-high at 18.4 points per game. He’s been the offensive spark plug the Utah Jazz needed, especially with All-Star guards Mike Conley and Donovan Mitchell missing extended periods of time due to injury.

It’s apparent that Snyder has given him the ultimate green light. After all, Clarkson is also averaging a career-high in 3-point attempts with 8.8 per game, marking the sixth-highest 3-point attempts per game across the entire league.

While Clarkson’s efficiency can sometimes be in question, there is no doubt in his ability to fill it up. He even recorded a career-high 41 points late in the season, albeit in a losing effort, while coming off the bench in a road game against the Golden State Warriors.

The Jazz will need him to continue to routinely bring that type of explosive scoring with the second unit as they look to make a deep run in the NBA Playoffs.

A Utah Jazz iron man

In a season like no other, several teams saw their key players sidelined due to COVID-19 health and safety protocols. Between the effects of the pandemic and injuries occurring due to the condensed schedule, few teams finished the season unscathed.

This Utah Jazz squad was no different. Toward the end of the season, the wear and tear from this fast-paced season seemed to catch up with the Jazz as their two primary ballhandlers, Mike Conley and Donovan Mitchell, went down with hamstring tightness and an ankle sprain, respectively.

ALSO READ: Will Donovan Mitchell return in time for Game 1?

Conley ended up sitting a total of 21 games this season. Meanwhile, Mitchell sat 19, which represents the most games the 24-year-old has missed in a season throughout his young career. Jordan Clarkson, on the other hand, remained available for almost the entire season, playing in 68 of the 72 regular-season games.

In the absence of Conley and Mitchell, Clarkson was called upon to carry a heavier offensive load than usual.

In the games without Mitchell, who is arguably the Utah Jazz’s most important offensive player, Clarkson elevated his play in nearly every major statistical category, averaging 22.7 points, 3.0 assists, and 4.7 rebounds per game in the 19 games that Mitchell was unavailable.

His durability throughout the course of this unusual season has also led to Clarkson having the highest usage rate of his entire career at 29.7 percent. That is the second-highest on the team this season, trailing only Mitchell.

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Jordan Clarkson’s breakthrough season has not gone unnoticed. As of Thursday, he’s joined former NBA MVP Derrick Rose, who is now with the New York Knicks, and fellow Jazzman Joe Ingles as the three finalists for this year’s NBA Sixth Man of the Year Award.