The Los Angeles Lakers received news this week that Nick Young would miss the next six to eight weeks with a complete tear of the radial collateral ligament in his right thumb, which turns the attention towards the immediate impact that he has on the team.
The timeline of Young’s injury will force him to miss the entire preseason, and potentially the first two to four weeks of the regular season. This being the case, the Lakers will have to look alter their rotation a bit, and play certain players in different roles. Los Angeles could play Kobe Bryant and Xavier Henry at small forward to fill some of the void in the meantime, which could open up more playing time for Jordan Clarkson at shooting guard.
The 22-year-old Clarkson is a combo guard that is coming off a productive junior season at Missouri where he where he averaged 17.5 points and 3.4 assists in 35 games played in the 2013-14 campaign. He was also a midseason candidate for the Wooden Award and was named to the Second Team All-SEC by the coaches.
Clarkson also had a nice showing for the Lakers’ summer league team in July averaging 15.8 points, 4.4 assists, and 5.0 rebounds in five games played. This included scoring in double-figures in each contest, shooting 42 percent from 3-point range, and having at least five rebounds and five assists in three games. On top of that, Clarkson has also impressed Bryant with his level of play and willingness to learn as much as he can prior to entering his rookie campaign.
“I like him. He’s a hard worker and a curious player,” Bryant said. “He tried to pick things apart and tries to learn and absorb as much as he can.”
That said, Clarkson will need to continue to work hard in training camp and the preseason with what could be a prime opportunity to earn significant playing time off the bench early in the regular season. He has the potential to be a big impact player on not only offense, but also on defense with his ability to defend multiple positions. This may come to his advantage on helping earn him playing time under new head coach Byron Scott, who has made it known that the Lakers will build their identity through their defense.
Clarkson must also relish the chance to play against and learn from Bryant in practice. He can use the experience gained guarding Bryant in practice as a basis to what to expect when guarding other potent scorers in the league. Ultimately, what it will come down to is whether Clarkson can take advantage of the opportunity that lies in front of him. He has the potential to be what Bryant described him as being ““a steal of a pick.”
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