Jordan Clarkson was a revelation for the Utah Jazz bench starting immediately after the Jazz traded for him back on Christmas Eve in 2019. Back then, the Utah Jazz bench was getting absolutely crushed night-in and night-out. The starters would build a lead, the bench would lose the lead. Rinse. Repeat.
He improved even more with extra time in Quin Snyder’s system, to the tune of a career best 18.4 points per game and the 2021 6th Man of the Year Award. When he’s on, there’s almost nothing you can do to stop him.
The Joe Ingles story has been told 1,000 times, so I won’t repeat it again here. But the Jazz-fan favorite and (so far) Jazz-lifer has also been a fantastic contributor off the Jazz bench. And he has no problem filling in the starting lineup when injuries occur, like they did this year. That versatility is valuable. (However, with how much the 33 year old wore down over the backend of the season, he’s definitely at his best killing opposing benches.)
Ingles too had one of his best years as a pro, with 12.1 points per game and shooting a blistering 41.5% from 3 on over 6 attempts per game. That type of volume and efficiency from downtown is a huge weapon for any team in today’s NBA. He’s also a lethal weapon in the pick and roll with rim runners Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors. Ingles fought his way into the 6th Man of the Year race and ended up taking 2nd to his teammate Clarkson.
It’s pretty rare (has it ever happened) for one team to have the top two spots in the 6MOY race. The Jazz depth this season was a big reason for them having the best record in the NBA.
But should Joe Ingles and Jordan Clarkson really be coming off the same bench?
Their competing styles don’t mesh particularly well, and their teammates’ performances back that statement up.
Joe Ingles is a secondary ball handler. He’s a playmaker that’s great in the pick and roll. He’s also a deadly shooter, especially when he decides to actually shoot the open shots! He’s more of a facilitator and has that crafty fake pass layup that is way more effective than it should be. Teammates know how to play with him and how the offense works with him running it.
Jordan Clarkson is a flamethrower. He’s that Jamal Crawford bench gunner that has the ultimate green light when he’s on the court, for better or worse. He’s an offensive weapon because he can just take a game over, especially against opposing benches. That lead the starters built can balloon to double digits in a hurry with Clarkson coming in. His teammates know how to play with him and know what to expect from him when he’s on the court, and they adjust accordingly.
But what happens when you have a pick and roll facilitator/shooter and a relative black hole (I don’t mean that entirely negatively, it’s just the truth) coming off the same bench?
Here are the True Shooting %’s of the top 8 players by minutes for the Jazz this year, focusing on whether Ingles/Clarkson were on or off the court.
Every single player except for Bojan Bogdanovic is performing worse when sharing the court with both Ingles AND Clarkson than they do with one, the other, or neither.
Is this a problem worth having? Possibly. Utah did just have one of the greatest shooting seasons of all time, after all. Could the rotations or even starting lineup be altered to lessen the # of minutes those 2 share the court? Also possible, although given Coach Snyder’s rotation tendencies that seems less likely. (By the way, ~57% of Ingles’ and Clarkson’s minutes were spent together. Which given the above table, might make that problem bigger than I originally thought). Or could one of the two be moved this offseason to help address different roster limitations? Again, possible.
What will the Jazz do about it in the end? I guess we’ll find out shortly. This is, after all, an extremely important offseason for a team trying to reach the finals for the first time in over two decades!