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Jordan Clarkson: Efficiency God

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Is the Jazz sixth man simply on a hot streak, or is he really just this good?

Utah Jazz v San Antonio Spurs Photos by Logan Riely/NBAE via Getty Images

Jordan Clarkson has a reputation. He doesn’t try to hide it either. Everyone on the court, everyone on the sidelines, and everyone watching at home knows exactly what Clarkson is going to do once he gets the ball. He’s going to shoot.

Sure, sometimes he’ll mix it up. Instead of pulling up for three, he may dribble to the middle of the lane and put up a floater. Maybe he’ll throw in the occasional drive all the way to the hoop. But nobody is under any illusion that he is going to pass up an opportunity to shoot. The man has never met a shot he didn’t like.

This is the player Clarkson is. Swagger, moxie, self-assurance, whatever you want to call it, Jordan has it. Since the day he entered the league, he’s had a double-dose of confidence, and nothing is ever going to take that from him. Whether he was on a team destined for the lottery, or playing next to LeBron James in the NBA finals, Jordan Clarkson was going to do what he does. He was going to shoot.

Utah Jazz v Denver Nuggets - Game Five
Did I mention he’s got confidence?
Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

Jordan remains that same guy. He’s still gonna get his shots up no matter what. So what did change? Because something definitely did.

Clarkson’s perception around the league for the last few years has basically been that of an average bench chucker. A guy who may heat up and win you a game or two, but will also shoot you out of some games. He’ll put up some numbers in the points column, but he’ll take a whole lot of bad shots to get there.

Fast forward to the present day, and Clarkson now strikes fear into the hearts of opposing benches. He’s the picture of efficient volume scoring. He’s putting up 17.5 points per game while sitting pretty in the coveted 50/40/90 club. His True Shooting percentage for most of his career has hovered around the 53% range, below league average. Now it’s at 63%. So again, what changed?

Shot Selection

Over the last three seasons, Clarkson’s shot selection has undergone a dramatic transformation. In the 2018-19 season, only two years ago, 24.2% of Clarkson’s field goal attempts were long mid-range shots (10ft-3pt line). In 2019-20, that number dropped to 11%. So far this season? 5.8%. Now take a look at his three point attempts. In 2018-19, 37.7% of Clarkson’s shot attempts came from beyond the arc. In the 2019-20 season, that grew to 47.6%. So far in the 2020-21 season, Utah Jazz sixth man is shooting a jaw-dropping 52.3% of his shots from three.

Just look at his shot charts from the last three seasons. Look at the change! Long mid-range shots have all but disappeared, when only two seasons ago they were a major part of his game. Jordan has bought into the modern NBA, and that has done wonders for his effectiveness in scoring the ball.

Shot Making

Utah Jazz v Denver Nuggets Photo by Bart Young/NBAE via Getty Images

As much as Clarkson’s improved shot selection has helped him, it’s not the only explanation for his rapid rise in efficiency. He’s also simply making more shots than he used to. Jordan is a career 34.5% three point shooter. With the Jazz he has hit 38.3% from range (42.9% this season). From floater range (3-10 ft), Clarkson has shot 44.1% over his career, and 50% with Utah. This is the part that may worry Jazz fans. Is this just an extended hot streak? Is this sustainable at all?

To answer those questions, I decided to look into the types of shots Clarkson has been getting.

Jordan Clarkson Shot Tracking

Season: 2018-19 2019-20 2020-21
Season: 2018-19 2019-20 2020-21
Catch and shoot frequency (jumpshots) 22.80% 29.00% 29.90%
Off the dribble frequency (jumpshots) 37.30% 30.40% 31.60%
Open shot frequency (closest defender farther than 4ft) 45.80% 46.40% 52.30%
Non-open shot frequency (closest defender within 4ft) 54.20% 53.60% 47.70%
Early shot frequency (shot clock 7 seconds or higher) 75.30% 78.30% 84.50%
Late shot frequency (shot clock lower than 7 seconds) 24.70% 21.70% 15.50%
Jordan Clarkson Shot Tracking NBA.com

Over this same span of time that Clarkson has been changing his shot locations, he’s also been getting shots in far better situations. He’s shooting more off the catch than he ever has before. He’s open more often than he used to be. He’s shooting more comfortable shots, early in the shot clock. Far fewer attempts to bail his team out at the end of the possession. Taking into account these factors, it’s no wonder he is shooting better than he did before.

Some of the credit for this needs to go to his new teammates. When you’re on the court with Donovan Mitchell, Mike Conley, Bojan Bogdanovic, and Rudy Gobert, you’ll be open more often than you’d be when surrounded by Tristan Thompson, Alec Burks, and Cedi Osman. Some of the credit should go to Quin Snyder. Quin has optimized Jordan’s skillset. He doesn’t limit bad shots, he encourages good ones. JC can go into the game and just shoot without conscience, because Snyder’s sets put him in positions to get his best shots. So he’s essentially given Clarkson his dream role.

Miami Heat v Utah Jazz Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images

So let’s revisit the big question. Is Jordan Clarkson’s current level of efficiency sustainable?

Yes, it is sustainable. Oh, it will drop off slightly. He probably won’t keep shooting 43% from three all year, but he will probably be somewhere in the 38-40% range. Teams will likely pay more attention to him in film study, and he’ll probably see his number of open shots decrease slightly, so that may alter his percentages a bit.

But Jordan Clarkson will still be Jordan Clarkson. He won’t be phased. He won’t stop taking the shots in front of him. And now that he’s embraced the philosophy of modern basketball and he’s been put into an ideal situation, he may even continue to improve. One thing is for sure, he’ll never go back to the player he used to be.

Jordan Clarkson has a new reputation. He’s the guy that comes off the bench and cooks your favorite team. He’s the guy who won’t stop shooting, and won’t stop scoring. He’s the guy who seems like he just can’t miss.

Jordan Clarkson has never met a shot he didn’t like, and that’s a scary thing for the rest of NBA.