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Clarkson’s passing unlocks a new dimension for the Jazz

The bill on Clarkson has always been his ability as a scorer, to morph his attack based on the defense. His early season passing, though, is unlocking new dimensions for the Jazz.

Memphis Grizzlies v Utah Jazz
Jordan Clarkson celebrates a made shot against the Grizzlies but his late game passing is story of the win over MEM and the early season results
Photo by Chris Gardner/ Getty Images

Jordan Clarkson is turning heads...AGAIN!

This time, it’s because his passing is bending the defense much like his fancy-footwork and dazzling touch has years previous.

Clarkson landed on the Utah Jazz via a mid-season trade with Cleveland in the 2019-20 season. His impact was felt immediately for the league’s most struggling bench with 15.6 pts on +0.4% adjusted true shooting.

But over the ensuing seasons, it became pretty apparent that Clarkson getting the ball often meant the ball ended with Clarkson.

In the two seasons from 2020-2022, Jordan Clarkson ranked 8th league-wide among players with 1000+ minutes in the ratio of received to made passes. In short, he didn’t pass very much after receiving a pass.

Such tendencies often left Jazz fans and media members clutching for tuffs of hair in frustration as offensive advantages disappeared before our eyes.

Such plays were present no matter if Jordan was playing well or not. It was just what you got with JC, love him or hate him.

But towards the end of last season, things started turning around and have continued and accentuated into this early season. Jordan Clarkson play making for others!

This season Jordan is logging 10.1 potential assists per 75 possessions. His 2020-22 number? Just 6.0 per 75 poss. Because we’ve used per possession numbers, we’ve adjusted for game pace and playing time.

It goes even further. Through 7 games he’s making 40.1 passes per 75 poss while in 2020-22 he logged just 29.8 per 75.

His passing has taken a tremendous leap forward in the early going this year and is making strides to trust his teammates in the clutch! Dan Clayton of Salt City Hoops remarked on Jordan’s late game pass to Malik Beasley that sealed the Jazz win over the Grizzlies Saturday night:

Jordan has posted a team high 6 assists in 29 minutes of clutch play this season. In the two years spanning 2020-22, JC had just 2 assists in over 54 minutes of clutch play. That is a staggering shift in his approach to “taking over a game”.

This development unlocks a whole new dimension for the Jazz. With Jordan implementing an “eyes out” approach to his game, the entire team benefits from created advantages when they often fizzled out with Clarkson dribbling the air out of the ball.

Take a look at these passing highlights from the early season thus far:

We see a lot here in just a handful of highlights:

  • Finding 3P shooters on the weakside and, more notably, as trailing
  • Passing to cutters after drawing 2-3 defenders
  • Giving up the ball in transition when he already has an advantage
  • Trusting teammates late in games

How is this unlocking a new dimension for the Jazz?

In spite of the Jazz trading top tier talent in Gobert (elite finisher), Mitchell (elite play maker), and Bogdanovic (elite shot maker), the Jazz are posting a similar offensive rating (118 points per 100 possessions) with Clarkson on the floor to what the team did last year with Jordan.

There’s not not much to point to for unsustainability, as well. 37% on threes is fine, 38% offensive rebound rate will probably come down but they’re seeing a high turnover rate, and the modest 21% free throw rate is crazy for such dynamic and aggressive lineups.

When Clarkson is passing like he is, a league average true shooting percentage like he’s posting this year isn’t an issue at all. The team is performing very well despite inferior talent from last season.

Whether Utah looks to trade Jordan or promote him as the cultural icon of the Jazz, his development is making him all the more valuable and entertaining.