Sports / Utah Jazz / 
Utah Jazz head coach Quin Snyder speaks with Jordan Clarkson (00) during the second half of an NBA preseason basketball game against the Phoenix Suns Saturday, Dec. 12, 2020, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Rick Bowmer, AP Photo

The advice that has helped turn Jordan Clarkson into an early 6th Man of the Year favorite

By Ryan Miller, KSL.com | Posted - Dec. 30, 2020 at 7:38 p.m.



SALT LAKE CITY — Joe Ingles' booming sarcastic voice was heard off-camera: "If JC sees the hoop, the ball's going up!"

That's the reputation Utah Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson has built through his seven years in the NBA — and it was pretty accurate.

Clarkson has never been afraid to shoot. Not as a rookie, when he averaged double-digit shot attempts in just 25 minutes. Not when he was traded to the Jazz in the middle of last season and shot 12 times in his first game with the team. Not ever.

But something has changed over the last year: The shot is only going up in certain spots. Through three games this season, Clarkson is averaging 18 points on 13 shot attempts. Not a single one has been a long 2.

"Ever since I got here, we've had conversations on my shot distribution, places where I get my shots and stuff like that," Clarkson said.

But part of the credit for Clarkson's career-high effective field goal percentage last season and his blistering start in the first week goes to his former coaches in Cleveland.

Before the 2019-20 season, a Cleveland staffer sat down with Clarkson and showed him some data. Clarkson, while one of the better mid-range shooters in the league, was taking too many of them. If he exchanged his long-range 2s for 3s, his efficiency would go up.

It wasn't groundbreaking by any means. Golden State used the same philosophy to build a dynasty around Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and eventually Kevin Durant. The Houston Rockets took the approach even further by bombing away without reservations. But it was a new approach for Clarkson. To his credit, he listened.

"No convincing," Clarkson said. "I've always been aggressive in that area, taking shots and trying to make shots as well as make plays. All it was was somebody coming to me and saying, 'This is what we need to change and this what we need to do.' I'm just trying to make it work."

Before that conversation, at least 15% of Clarkson's shot attempts each season have come via long midrange shots (and in most years much more), according to Cleaning the Glass. The hope was that by simply eliminating those, Clarkson's high-usage game would become more efficient.

Through the first two months of the 2019-20 season, Clarkson used just 6% of his shots on those long midrange attempts. That number continued to drop when he arrived in Utah. Clarkson shot more corner 3s than he'd ever had before and fewer long 2s.

"I took a lot of the tough 2s out of my game. I feel like that's the biggest adjustment for me," Clarkson said. "Just trying to find a high percentage shot, take the 3 when I'm open and getting to the paint and trying to make plays when it's there."

That approach has Clarkson ranked third of all bench scorers in the early part of the season and made him one of the early favorites for Sixth Man of the Year.

"I'm all open ears, I'm playing in the system. Trusting coach and what he says. It's been great for me," Clarkson said.

And great for the Jazz.

"One of the things that he's been really aggressive is on his catch-and-shoot 3s, or even (pull-up) 3s," Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. "We like his ability to create, and I think he's finding a good balance of that. I told him, if he crosses over he can cross over again but by the third time he's got to figure out how to make a play."

In that case, if he sees the hoop, the ball is going up. At least if he's standing in the right spot.

Ryan Miller

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