If you know where to look, the second round of the NBA Draft can be a clearance rack of undervalued and under appreciated goods. There is real value in the second round of NBA drafts. Sure, it is rare that a team will find franchise changing talent in the second round, rarely will you find a franchise player, but finding solid rotational pieces is quite common. Second round picks are valuable, especially when you can grab first round type talent in the second round. That is exactly what the Lakers may have done with Jordan Clarkson.
Manu Ginobili, Paul Millsap, Marc Gasol, Monta Ellis, Chandler Parsons, Lance Stephenson, Isaiah Thomas. Those are current NBA players who are pretty good at basketball. All of them were drafted in the second round. Most of them had definite flaws coming into the draft. Paul Millsap was too short to be a good power forward. Marc Gasol was overweight and it was assumed that he would stay overseas for a few years after being drafted. Monta Ellis was coming out of high school. Isaiah Thomas was, and still is, very short. There were questions surrounding Lance Stephenson’s character (still some questions). All of these guys have helped their teams significantly. If those drafts could all be redone, I am sure these players would all be lottery picks.
In this past draft, the Lakers were able to essentially buy the rights talented guard Jordan Clarkson of the University of Missouri. There are some definite questions about Clarkson’s game. I know that. I cannot pretend that he does not posses serious talent, though. Clarkson can play either guard position. He measures out at about 6’5” with a 6’8” wingspan, which is comparable to Michael Carter-Williams, this past seasons Rookie of the Year.
I was able to watch some of Clarkson performances in the NBA Summer League. There were times when was the best player on the court. While former Laker Kendall Marshall was unable to bring the ball up the court against Pelicans’ guard Russ Smith, Clarkson was able to blow by Smith with ease and make plays for his teammates. Against Toronto, Clarkson dominated. It was upsetting that Julius Randle was not around the entire Summer League. While Randle was getting his contract situation sorted out, Clarkson was playing basketball with mediocre talent. It would have been nice to see Clarkson and Randle surrounded with actual basketball players.
Clarkson’s raw shooting numbers aren’t too impressive and he was mired in a slump for a large part of his last season at Missouri. However, he showed that even when his jump shot was not falling, he was still able to get to the basket and get to the free-throw line at a high rate, which is something that should translate to the NBA level. It’s possible that Clarkson will never be able to consistently shoot well enough to be considered at threat from the perimeter, but if he can make the right play and continue to get to the basket he should be a very good rotational player.
As a developing point guard, Clarkson is in a good position. He’s on a team that simply does not have many point guards on the roster. There is Jeremy Lin (probably the starter), then there is Steve Nash. I don’t think many people, including Steve Nash, know what Steve Nash is going to do this season. I hope that he will be able to play, but realistically it just seems unlikely. Nash is one of the greatest point guards of all time and Clarkson should be able to learn a ton from having a mentor like Nash. If Nash does not play, Clarkson will be the only other point guard on the roster outside of Lin.
As a second round pick, the Lakers have the opportunity to be very creative with Clarkson’s contract. As a first round pick, there is a pay scale. Each pick has a set salary that the team has to pay if they want them to play. With a second round pick, the team is able to get creative. The Lakers could choose to pay Clarkson the minimum over three years with a team option for the fourth year.
Clarkson and the Lakers have yet to agree on a deal, but the Lakers need to lock up Clarkson for as many years as possible for as cheap as possible. Jordan Clarkson has legitimate talent. He figures to be a part of their long-term plan. After all, they did spend $1.8 million just to acquire him.