Restricted free agent guard Jordan Clarkson has agreed to a 4-year, $50 million contract with the Lakers, according to Shams Charania of The Vertical. Clarkson became an RFA this summer after receiving a $1.2 million qualifying offer from the Lakers and was considered one of the top young players on the market.
The rise of Clarkson has been interesting to watch over the past couple years. An unheralded second-round pick in 2014 by the Wizards, Clarkson was traded to the Lakers on draft night in exchange for cash considerations. After initially beginning his professional career with Los Angeles’ D-League affiliate, the L.A. D-Fenders, he caught on with the NBA club in the middle of his rookie season and quickly established a role in the rotation.
In 59 games as a rookie in 2014-15, Clarkson averaged 11.9 points, 3.5 assists and 3.2 rebounds per game on a bad Lakers team. He improved upon those numbers in his sophomore season, putting up 15.5 points, four rebounds and 2.4 assists per game as he started 79 games for L.A. Clarkson is also apparently dating Kendall Jenner, so he’s had no trouble living the Hollywood lifestyle.
It’s notable that Clarkson has shown such progress on an otherwise weak team. While it could be argued that Clarkson has benefited from the extra usage afforded to him on a thin Lakers roster, it’s impressive that the point guard has managed to establish himself from a second-round pick to a legitimate NBA starter in that environment.
Being surrounded by better players probably would make Clarkson look better, too. He’s often been tasked with creating offense and doesn’t get the kind of group defense support that’s afforded to point guards on better teams. Getting thrown into the fire with a bad Lakers team to begin his career was a perfect fit for an underrated second-rounder, but ceiling may not be that high, especially defensively, and ultimately he might fit better as a role player on a better team.
Clarkson certainly doesn’t believe that he’s close to his potential, however. Earlier this year, Clarkson posted on the Players’ Tribune that he was the “most underrated player in the NBA.” That’s not totally crazy for a relatively unknown 23-year-old guard who just averaged 15.5 points per game playing in Los Angeles, but more than anything, it speaks to Clarkson being a very confident young man.
That makes him a perfect fit for the bright lights of Hollywood, and now he’s locked up a deal to stay there long-term. This shouldn’t come as a surprise after Clarkson told reporters in May that the hiring of head coach Luke Walton would have a major impact on his free agency.
“It really impacts it a lot,” Clarkson said. “That style of play fits me, as well as the other guys. I definitely want to stay here in L.A. and be here. I said in my exit interview, I don’t want to be that guy who bounces around from team to team.
“I want to be here in L.A. — a place where I can call home — and leave a legacy. The hiring makes it even better.”
Walton was an assistant coach for the championship-winning Warriors and also played for the Lakers from 2003-12. The fact that he’s just 36 years old, making him the league’s youngest coach, appealed to Clarkson, as well as his Los Angeles background.
Now the two will be partnered together for a while, and with point guard D’Angelo Russell also around, it’ll be interesting to see how the Lakers plot out their backcourt for the future.