This is the fifth in a daily look at the top prospects in the NBA Draft: Their strengths, their weaknesses, and whether or not they're a fit for the Celtics. Today's prospect: Jordan Clarkson of Missouri.
JORDAN CLARKSON, Missouri
6-foot-5, 186 pounds
HIS STORY: In his first season at Missouri -- he sat out 2012-13 after transferring from Tulsa, where he was a big fish in the small pond of Conference USA (first-team All-Conference as a freshman in 2011-12) -- Jordan Clarkson came out with a bang to start 2013-14: He and another NBA prospect, Jabari Brown, led the Tigers to 12 wins in their first 13 games. Ultimately, though, Missouri cooled off, finishing 9-9 in an incredibly weak SEC and missing the NCAA Tournament. (The Tigers went to the N.I.T., where they were bounced in the second round by Southern Mississippi.) Clarkson is a combo guard who played the point -- his best bet for the NBA -- last year, and his year as the floor general was reflective of the Tigers' season overall: Flashes of greatness but incredibly inconsistent. He found a bigger challenge in the SEC and made a name for himself, but also raised some question marks.
HIS STRENGTHS: Clarkson has a good-size body for a NBA point guard. He’s very crafty with the ball, able to break down defenders, and able to get to the rim and finish (17.5 points per game last year). His touch around the rim, and his ability to finish with various shots in traffic, is impressive. He also gets himself to the line (5.6 FTA/game) and converted 83 percent of those attempts. He's more of a scoring PG, which goes back to his mentality and experience as he spent the majority of his career off the ball. That said, he did average 3.4 assists last year. On the defensive end, his size and length (6-foot-7 wingspan) help him contain smaller point guards. He does not possess the lateral quickness of most NBA level PGs, but he’s a smart defender who will battle to hold his man in check.
HIS WEAKNESSES: The lack of experience Clarkson has running a team, and his decision-making when he does, are big concerns. He doesn't have the innate ability of many point guards, or consistent understanding of how to get to specific spots on the floor. Also, he commonly fails to make the correct, fundamentally sound decisions that you need your floor general to make. The other big hole in Clarkson’s game is his lack of a jump shot. Last year, he shot 45 percent from the field but made only 28 percent of his 3-point attempts. That shows a lack of effectiveness and also questionable shot selection. Teams began to just lay off Clarkson last year and allow him to shoot. Instead of punishing them by having screens set inside the 3-point line, turning the corner and creating, he settled for those 3s. Much to his team’s detriment.
IS HE A FIT FOR THE CELTICS? Clarkson will be available for the Celtics at No. 17, but they won’t take him. He’ll most likely go in the second round, though he could climb into the late first if his workouts are terrific. He’ll have to show increased PG skills, decision-making and a better jump shot to wow executives. The good news for Clarkson is that those are all things that can be worked on and improved with time.
COMING ON SUNDAY: C.J. Wilcox of Washington