The Lakers are wrapping up one of their worst seasons in franchise history. They currently hold the fourth-worst record in the league at 17-47. But one bright spot in an otherwise awful year has been the play of point guard Jordan Clarkson, a second-round pick who has shown legitimate promise as a piece for the team to hang onto going forward.
And so, with 18 games left in the season, Lakers coach Byron Scott told reporters on Sunday that he’s planning to remove Clarkson from the starting lineup for the final 10 games, replacing him with opening-day starter Jeremy Lin.
“I want to see how much of a difference it is now as opposed to the start of the season,” Scott said after Sunday’s morning shootaround at the Lakers’ practice facility in El Segundo. “He knows the offense better and he knows what I need from him every single night on both ends of the floor. Now to see him in a starting role, it would be a little bit of a change. He was thinking so much back earlier in the season. Right now, he’s just playing.”
The move doesn’t make much sense. Clarkson has been terrific as a starter, averaging 14 points, 3.5 rebounds and 4.1 assists and shooting 44.5 percent from the field in 21 starts. In 21 games coming off the bench, he’s shooting 38.8 percent from the field and averaging 4.9 points, 1.5 rebounds and 0.8 assists per game.
So why move Clarkson to the bench? Here’s Scott’s explanation:
Yet, Scott argued featuring Clarkson off the bench will also provide insight on how he plays in a different role.
“I’d just like to see JC come off the bench,” Scott said, “and see what he provides.”
OK, but Clarkson has already come off the bench this season and wasn’t nearly as productive as he has been in the starting lineup. He’s playing well as a starter, better than Lin has played this year, period. It would be smarter for Scott to seize on this one piece of positive news from the season and groom Clarkson as the team’s point guard for the future—or at least until they make their next run at a big name in free agency. Outside of lottery pick Julius Randle, who has missed all but one game of the season with a broken leg, Clarkson is basically it as far as young talent on the Lakers’ roster that could potentially be keepers. Why not foster that instead of giving those minutes to Lin, a known quantity who probably isn’t in the future plans, in a lost season?