Former Cavs guard Jordan Clarkson killing it for Jazz in playoffs

Utah Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson reacts after a three-pointer in-game. (Photo by Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports)
Utah Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson reacts after a three-pointer in-game. (Photo by Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports) /

Jordan Clarkson made his presence felt for the Cleveland Cavaliers in a big way for much of the time he was playing for the Wine and Gold.

Clarkson was acquired via trade near the 2018 deadline, to go with current Cav Larry Nance Jr., from the Los Angeles Lakers, and though he started out hot, cooled off.

Clarkson had a rough first career postseason experience with Cleveland in that run too, and had just 4.7 points per outing and a ghastly 30.1 percent shooting clip. That included him hitting only 23.1 percent from three-point land. Needless to say, it was not a good first go-round for him in the playoffs.

Albeit from there, while it was no longer in the LeBron James-led Cavs team days, Clarkson would settle into a key bench scoring role for the Cavaliers in the following season and was a bright spot on rebuilding clubs. In 2018-19, Clarkson had a then-career-high 16.8 points per contest, to go with 3.3 rebounds and 2.4 assists in 27.3 minutes per game.

And then in 2019-20, before he was traded to the Utah Jazz in late December, somewhat because of his then-expiring contract, Clarkson still gave Cleveland a boost prior to that. Then with the Cavs, he had 14.6 points in 23.0 minutes per outing, to go with 2.4 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game.

Clarkson would then aid Utah in a similar bench bucket-getting fashion last season, and he would rebound well in his second postseason. Although Utah would lose in a series in which the Denver Nuggets amassed a 3-1 comeback, Clarkson had 16.7 points per outing then on 46.4 percent shooting, and just looked so much more comfortable.

Currently, the former Cavaliers guard is really getting it done for Utah, too, in his third postseason, and the first one following him re-signing with the Jazz last offseason. Clarkson had 18.6 points per contest in Utah’s first-round win over the Memphis Grizzlies and has had 18 and then 24 points in the first two games of the Jazz’s second-round series versus the LA Clippers.

I’d expect him to keep making things happen from here/looking onward as well, but these playoffs have had to feel great for Jordan.

The former Cavs guard is killing it for Utah in the postseason.

Clarkson is again in a shot-hunting bench role with the Jazz, but his three-point shooting/off-ball play has taken off and he’s followed up how that was progressing in his 2019-20 play pre-trade with the Cavs.

In a general sense though, Clarkson hit 36.6 percent from deep with Utah last season on 6.0 attempts per outing, and this season, both in the on and off-ball variety, Clarkson hit 34.7 percent of a by far career-high 8.8 triple attempts per contest in 2020-21.

And in the postseason, he’s again been letting it fly, just as he did in his Cavaliers days as a scorer overall, particularly in 2018-19/2019-20 in PT with Collin Sexton/Darius Garland, Kevin Love, Nance and others.

Clarkson again was a crucial contributor in that first-round W over Memphis and his production in Utah’s last contest, in particular, gave the Jazz plenty of energy.

Now, of course Clarkson having big-time shooters in Donovan Mitchell, a budding superstar, for stretches in there with him obviously helps, and the likes of Joe Ingles, Bojan Bogdanovic, Royce O’Neale space the floor so well for JC. Rudy Gobert’s impact on both ends is huge, too, in fairness, and his screening his big for Clarkson, and Derrick Favors as well.

Albeit regardless, it’s clear that the former Cavaliers’ microwave bench scorer is again killing it in a familiar role, but on the postseason stage once again for Utah, and he keeps playing as free as ever. Clarkson touched on how he’s seemingly in a great groove and is again playing “free,” as Cavs fans remember about him so vividly, and that’s paid dividends for him.

With Utah’s Mike Conley banged up currently, and having missed the past two games due to a mild right hamstring strain, Clarkson’s confidence and production have been big against LA, too, and he’ll look to keep it going on the road.

So, while he’s no longer playing for the Wine and Gold, I’m happy for JC, who won the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year Award this season, as KJG’s Mack Perry highlighted.

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And by the looks of it, Clarkson could end up making another NBA Finals appearance, but this time with Utah. I’d also think the likes of his former teammates in Nance, Love and others would have to be pulling for him at this point, too.