Now, I’m not too sure how many UK-based NBA fans actually watch the Utah Jazz. But you damn well should be! Throw out the excuses like “Oh, well they don’t appear on Sky Sports enough” and use your noggin – yes, that’s right, I am directly talking to you. Get on over to YouTube – but only after you’ve read this, of course. YouTube has become an outstanding outlet for NBA highlights these past five years, with channels such as Dawkins making it easier than ever to check out games from all 30 franchises (and whilst you’re there, why not sub to our channel too?).
So, the Jazz play in Salt Lake City, a place you’ve probably never heard of – it’s the headquarters for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints didn’t you know? And they don’t have LeBron James or Giannis Antentokounmpo, but what they do have is Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert and a whole list of other outstanding basketball talents that you should keep an eye on. Which brings me neatly onto the newest addition to the Jazz roster, Jordan Clarkson.
In his short career so far, Clarkson has learned from the best. He played alongside Kobe Bryant during his final years as a Laker, and in Cleveland he was teammates with the ageless LeBron James, losing alongside him in the 2018 Finals. With LeBron’s departure for Los Angeles, Cleveland was thrown into the unknown and its roster along with it.
The following season, Clarkson averaged 27 minutes per game, contributing to what was a pretty bad team – the start of this season was no different. This trade suited both parties; Cleveland gained some financial flexibility and could give Kevin Porter Jr (one of the teams building blocks for the future) more minutes, and Clarkson (who was always destined to leave as an unrestricted free agent this summer), a player who has always been a role player, got to head to the Jazz for a chance to play the ultimate role.
Clarkson’s move to Utah was the first mid-season trade of the year. Efficiently reported as ever by every NBA fan’s best-friend, who they’ve never met, Adrian Wojnarowski. While mid-season trades can sometimes leave fans scratching their heads, you didn’t need to be a high-level front office executive to know what the Jazz were trying to do with this move. This was a team which drastically needed offensive production off the bench, a player who could create his own shot and force the opposition into difficult situations. The trade was a no-brainer and now, 24 games later, Jordan Clarkson is playing the best basketball of his career – period.
You cannot debate this. His stints with the Los Angeles Lakers and Cleveland Cavaliers, have been well and truly put behind him, and in doing so Clarkson has become irreplaceable for the Utah Jazz. Clarkson is playing the best basketball of his career because he knows exactly what he is in Utah, and what’s required of him. The Jazz also happen to be a team that favours winning now, not losing, like the Lakers and Cavaliers teams of his past.
In 24 games for the Jazz, Clarkson has scored in double-digits all but five times. He’s scored 20 points or more nine times, and hit the 30 point mark twice – a mark normally reserved for the league’s superstars. He is averaging 16 points per game, shooting 48 percent from the floor and 37 percent from the three-point line, and he has done all this in just under 26 minutes per game. No other player in the NBA this season is averaging that many points, and doing it as efficiently, in so few minutes.
More importantly for the Jazz, they’ve started to win. The team is 18-6 since acquiring Clarkson and is entering this weekend’s All-Star break with the league’s longest winning streak. It’s a familiar tale to those of us who have watched the Jazz these past three seasons – start poorly , ramp it up towards the end of the season. But this year’s poor start which saw them go 13-11, showed no signs of coming to a close. Thanks to Clarkson, all that has changed and the Jazz have won 23 of their last 30 games.
Watch this team, watch this young player. You won’t regret it.
Perhaps even do some Yoga and chill in the grass.