Examining Jordan Clarkson's Future with LA Lakers

Steven CookFeatured Columnist IVAugust 4, 2014

Los Angeles Lakers' Jordan Clarkson drives toward the net against the Golden State Warriors during the first half of an NBA summer league basketball game Monday, July 14, 2014, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
John Locher/Associated Press

NBA Summer League performances are typically taken with a grain of salt, but don't tell that to fans of Jordan Clarkson.

The Los Angeles Lakers rookie showcased his talents in Las Vegas, turning heads in the process with a slew of exciting performances. 

Averaging 15.8 points per game, the point guard—surprisingly enough—also led the team in rebounding throughout the two weeks of play. Whether it was his outside shooting stroke, getting to the basket or just impacting the game with his energy, Clarkson stuck out with his performances.

The 46th overall pick even added a game-winner to his resume after a last-second tip-in to beat the Golden State Warriors:

Clarkson's 42-percent clip from the field wasn't discouraging considering the low percentages that the summer league usually boasts. Meanwhile, shooting the same 42 percent from three-point range validates the rookie's elite shooting ability from deep. 

Lakers assistant coach Mark Madsen was among the many impressed with Clarkson's summer, per the team's official site:

"I think Jordan Clarkson had a tremendous summer league," Madsen said. "I think he was one of the top players, not only on the Lakers team, but here at the Las Vegas Summer League. I loved Jordan Clarkson's energy, I loved his enthusiasm for the game and I loved his ability to learn."

You can practically go down the list of encouraging signs from a rookie and match them with Madsen's comments. Not only was he one of the top players, but a strong work ethic and an open mind are musts for any rookie to make strides.

He has continued impressing those around the league with performances in the OVO Bounce Tournament in Toronto, which features a handful of NBA names. The Toronto Sun's Ryan Wolstat thought Clarkson was the best player there:

But the question still remains whether this second-round pick will be able to beat the odds and make his team's roster, much less make an impact in his debut season. 

Fortunately for Clarkson, the Lakers are in need of role players capable of making big impacts. Jeremy Lin and Carlos Boozer weren't the splashes that the Lakers' front office envisioned. Plus, the losses of Kendall Marshall and Jodie Meeks make L.A. thin at Clarkson's position.

LAS VEGAS, NV - JULY 18: Jordan Clarkson #5 of the Los Angeles Lakers smiles during the game against the Denver Nuggets at the Samsung NBA Summer League 2014 on July 18, 2014 at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly a
Jack Arent/Getty Images

And fortunately for the Lakers, Clarkson's limit is sky-high after proving in the summer league that he not only belongs but can thrive at the next level. 

Lin will start at the point, but there's nothing to suggest Clarkson won't back him up early on in the season. The pickings are slim otherwise. Steve Nash is unable to stay healthy, while Xavier Henry and Kobe Bryant are much more effective at their natural 2 position than running the point, as both did at times last year.

If injuries take a toll on L.A. like last season, Clarkson could be in for a big rookie year—as long as he can effectively run the point along with adding a scoring boost.

The Lakers tried their hardest to surround Bryant with stars to help him compete for a sixth title. But now, the reality is that Byron Scott will be taking on a more difficult task and will need players like Clarkson and No. 7 overall pick Julius Randle to make significant strides. 

And if Clarkson's first appearances in the purple and gold are any indication, he'll show up his fellow second-round picks by becoming a key contributor on the Lakers' bench as a rookie.

If he doesn't, Clarkson is at worst a player worth keeping around to see if he keeps up with his rapid rate of improvement.