The Cleveland Cavaliers traded for Jordan Clarkson in the 2017-18 season to try and find LeBron James the support he needed for one last run at a title, then hung around for another season-and-a-half. Then he was traded to the Utah Jazz where he blossomed as one of the league’s best scoring guards. When he was elevated to the starting lineup a season ago he continued that rise, having a career year at 30 years old and scoring 20.8 points per game.
This season, however, Clarkson looks overmatched trying to run the show for a Jazz team without a true point guard on the roster. He’s averaging a career-high five assists but that comes with a career-worst 3.8 turnovers per game, and he is hitting just 27.7 percent of his 3-pointers and 36.8 percent from the field overall.
The Jazz need Clarkson to be an offensive hub or they will truly struggle to score in the halfcourt, and thus far Clarkson hasn’t had it.
We complete our Utah trifecta with Collin Sexton, another member of the Donovan Mitchell trade return. Unlike Agbaji or Clarkson, Sexton was a homegrown Cavs player, the one they drafted the same week LeBron James left for Los Angeles and a player who had developed with a Cavaliers jersey on.
Ultimately, however, the Cavaliers didn’t have confidence in the long-term pairing of Sexton and Darius Garland and they included him in the trade package for Mitchell. Sexton has spent the 14 months since coming in and out of the lineup as he manages his knee and other injury concerns.
Thus far this season, however, Sexton has played in all nine games for Utah…who may prefer he had not. He hasn’t been abysmal shooting the ball, hitting 36 percent from 3-point range and a reasonable 51.9 percent inside the arc.
Looking under the hood, however, reveals that Sexton’s defense is so bad that he is sabotaging the Jazz when he takes the court. The Jazz are 11.1 points per 100 possessions worse than their opponents when Sexton is on the court, and their defense gives up 125.3 points per 100 possessions when he plays, in the fourth-percentile leaguewide. Their already shaky defense gets 8.4 points per 100 possessions worse when he comes into the game (all stats in this section courtesy of Cleaning the Glass).
The Jazz don’t have a collection of elite defenders in the rotation; they need their players to be at least competent on that end. Instead, Sexton has been a middling offensive player and one of the league’s worst defenders, a truly nasty combination.