Magic Johnson has high expectations for Jordan Clarkson this season, and if the Lakers want to challenge for a playoff spot this season, Clarkson will have to carry his weight. However, you can make an argument that the Lakers could get away without Clarkson.
Coming off a sophomore season that saw him average 15.5 points, big things were expected of the then 24-year-old combo guard when he signed a four-year $50 million contract. However, he took a step back this past season, seeing his points per game, rebounds, and three-point shooting drop while his assists pretty much stayed the same (at a measly 2.6) and overall field goal percentage increased by 1.2 percent. He also tends to try and play hero ball, thinking he’s Kobe and becomes a ball-hog to the detriment of the team. That and his defense still stayed the same sub par defense it was the previous two seasons.
And at 25 years old, his development seems to have stalled, and he seems as if he is destined for a sixth man role. He is a talented combo-guard who can give any team a spark off the bench but just doesn’t seem to be a starter on a good team. Plus the Lakers have three other shooting guards who can carry the load.
They have a younger and better Kentavious Caldwell-Pope who will be starting at shooting guard. They drafted Josh Hart from Villanova at 30th overall, which has the makings of a steal. Hart does everything well and seems like a role in the second unit will be perfect for him. And they signed Vander Blue, last year’s G-League MVP, to a contract.
Clarkson’s athleticism, youth, and scoring ability may make him intriguing to other teams in search of young talent. The Nets took on Timofey Mozgov’s salary to acquire D’Angelo Russell, so a team in a similar position as them (or even the Nets themselves) may take a flier on Clarkson.
The biggest reason to trade away Clarkson though is to clear salary for the upcoming summers. He’s owed $37.5 million over the next three seasons and clearing that average $12+ million a year can be valuable. The Lakers are expected to have just over $50 million in cap space next summer, enough to sign one max contract player. If they can clear Clarkson’s $12.5 million for 2018-2019, it would go a long way into clearing space to sign a second max player.
For a team that is hell-bent on getting two superstars in 2018, this is the best thing to do. And his production won’t be that highly missed because this Lakers team is much better than teams of the past four years.