With 1:23 left in the fourth quarter of Tuesday night's game, the Utah Jazz trailed the Cleveland Cavaliers by five points. With 1:10 left, Utah led by two.
Jordan Clarkson went on a personal 7-0 run in 13 seconds.
Clarkson drew not one but two fouls on three-point shots in that short time frame. Clarkson leads the NBA in three-point fouls drawn this season with 19. These are the most high-value fouls in the game, so this is an underrated skill. So let’s look at how he’s drawing these fouls at such a high rate.
NBA.com defines “very tight” shots as shot attempts with a defender 0-2 feet away from the shooter. Jordan Clarkson’s greatest NBA attribute is his lack of fear of any shot, so it’s no surprise that he ranks fourth in the NBA in “very tight” three-point attempts, behind only CJ McCollum, Stephen Curry, and Anfernee Simons. Logically, the more threes you take with a defender close to you, the more often you’ll get fouled on said three-point attempts. Clarkson gets some of these fouls because his defenders are right on top of him, and he decides to shoot anyway.
The step-back three-point shot has quickly become a staple in most guard’s games due to the nearly unguardable nature of the shot. Jordan Clarkson is no exception. He sometimes takes it to a new level by sprinting back toward the three-point line to launch a tough shot. You can’t allow Clarkson an open three as a defender, so when he does this, you have to rush toward him. His trajectory, then swapping to a forward jump, can cause collisions.
Here’s an example from the Cleveland game where the defender (Donovan Mitchell) has to fly to the side of Clarkson in order to avoid fouling.
Clarkson’s speed at which he changes from running backward to launching forwards is incredible and often causes his defenders to be in his landing space, forcing the officials to call a foul. Mitchell does a great job avoiding contact here, but it’s easy to see how difficult it is. Caris LeVert had a more challenging time with this play.
Another tool in Clarkson’s chest is a move often seen used by Damian Lillard, Chris Paul, and other great guards. When a defender follows the shooter around a screen, the shooter can pull up for a three at any time, stopping their momentum. If the defender isn’t ready for the stop, a collision will occur, resulting in a defensive foul. This was how Clarkson got his final three free throws against Cleveland on Tuesday.
Offensive players can and do sometimes abuse this, jumping back into the defender to create the contact, as you can see Clarkson doing here, although he’s a bit more sneaky than others. While I don’t love the ability to abuse that ruling, that is how the rules are now, and until the NBA changes it, that will continue to be an intelligent play, just like the swipe-through and many other tricks.
Even without a backward jump, this is a challenging play to guard. When a player has a rapid trigger, it’s nearly impossible to know when they’re going to shoot, making it very difficult to stop momentum as a defender.
Jordan Clarkson’s willingness to shoot in any given scenario makes him very difficult to guard. Adding this three-point foul drawing to his bag has given him another weapon to use against his defenders.