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NBA Daily: Jordan Clarkson Throwing Himself Into The Jazz Way

Spencer Davies dives into Jordan Clarkson’s fit with the Utah Jazz since the December trade through the eyes of head coach Quin Snyder.

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Preconceived notions can shape a player’s reputation.

A good chunk of the time in the NBA, these presumptions are just buzzwords to initiate a debate in the realm of media. Every now and then, they can be true, but in a less hyperbolic way than typically presented.

Perhaps a model for it, Jordan Clarkson has had those attached to his name over the years. Glance across the social feeds of local writers, national personalities and basketball fans alike during his six seasons in the league. You’d probably see labels such as “ball stopper” or “doesn’t play defense.”

When the Utah Jazz acquired Clarkson from the Cleveland Cavaliers this past December, head coach Quin Snyder knew to expect a powerful punch, but didn’t want to put the 27-year-old in a box regarding his skill set.

“You try not to make assumptions about players, at least that’s been something that’s important to me until you really get to know ’em,” Snyder said before the Jazz took the floor in Clarkson’s return to Cleveland.

Those limited types of outlooks are a perfect illustration of how player evaluations are conducted on the outside looking in. Instead of focusing on what a player can do, people go out of their way to discuss what that player can’t do. In-house, on the other hand, Snyder quickly found out that Clarkson can light up the points column — and much more than that.

“It’s hard not to notice his ability to score,” Snyder said. “If you see a highlight or whatever, they usually don’t show highlights of guys pressuring the ball and shifting on defense, but I think I would say that those things are important to him.

“I think his efficiency offensively has been really good. There’s always gonna be possessions where, when you can create a shot, that you do that….But you see a passion when he plays, and you see that even more when it’s up close and you get a chance to look in his eyes and you see how he comes in the game, how he comes out of the game and just how he competes. I didn’t have any preconceptions about that, but it’s been fun to see him play that way.”

Clarkson’s transition to Utah’s defensive system hasn’t quite been seamless. Playtype number statistics on NBA.com support that with evidence of his struggles guarding one-on-one and ball-handlers in the pick-and-roll. However, among the top five 3-man lineups he’s played with from a minutes standpoint, all of them have a positive net rating.

The important factor? The want and the work ethic are there.

“I think the main thing is kinda purposeful effort, and when someone’s giving that…there’s always breakdowns, but I think understanding what you’re trying to do, and that’s important because it’s a collective effort,” Snyder said. “So I think that the focus, until things become habitual — when you move from a different organization and different scheme or style of play, there’s always an adjustment, but the guys that embrace that are usually the guys that learn it the quickest and that’s what he’s done.”

While that is taking time and getting used to, Clarkson’s offensive prowess jelled with the Jazz in an instant. Any team would welcome the natural feel he has for the game, but especially one that desperately needed a bench boost. Increased averages and percentages across the board tell an easy story of his contributions. Synergy goes a little deeper.

A blur in transition, a sound conductor as a ball-handler in pick-and-roll situations and a flat-out hooper in isolation, Clarkson scores over one point per possession and ranks in the 80th percentile or higher in all three categories among his peers in the Association. He’s able to spot up if you ask him to and can cash in on catch-shoot opportunities.

The pull-up game has always been a strong suit for Clarkson. That hasn’t changed at all since his move to Salt Lake City — a 50 percent clip on about four attempts per game. Since his arrival, he’s also behind only Donovan Mitchell with an average of five drives a night and has a nearly top-10 points percentage (71.7) in the league on those plays.

Basketball Insiders mentioned the term “rescue possessions” in reference to Clarkson’s knack for making something out of nothing, perhaps the most dangerous tool in his arsenal. Snyder smirked in response.

“I haven’t heard that word. That’s a good word for it. You can rescue the coach,” Snyder said. “When you draw up a bad play and it’s inefficient, a player makes a shot and everybody thinks you did something good. Those are big, big plays — particularly, at certain points in the game. A lot of times the ball will come back to a guy and they’ll kinda get stuck with it with three or four seconds on the shot clock and it’s just…it’s hard. Because the defense knows the shot clock as well. You play pick-and-roll and they switch it.

“So I think the ability to first, rise up and shoot it, he gets good elevation on his shot when he can get it off. And then, also the ability to put it on the floor and create.”

Did you catch this play in the fourth quarter in Cleveland? That’s a prime example of what a rescue possession is. Other than paying attention to each game, it’s not easy to track down those types of numbers coming off ineffective sets. What you can do is make an inference off using touch time and dribble statistics.

When Clarkson has touched the ball from 2-to-6 seconds on a possession, he has been Utah’s most successful scorer by percentage since the trade. On opportunities with 3-to-6 dribbles, his effective field goal percentage is 58.6. If you put the two observations together, it basically works in conjunction.

Clarkson’s drive to win games is just as high as his desire to beat his man when he’s on the floor. The Jazz brought him to town because of that competitiveness — and the decision has paid off handsomely as the team prepares for postseason play.

“He’s thrown himself into what we’re doing,” Snyder said. “I think everybody respects that and we’re happy that he’s with us.”

Spencer Davies is a Deputy Editor and a Senior NBA Writer based in Cleveland in his third year with Basketball Insiders. Covering the league and the Cavaliers for the past five seasons, his bylines have appeared on Bleacher Report, FOX Sports and HoopsHype.

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Grizzlies trade Jonas Valanciunas to Pelicans for Eric Bledsoe, Steven Adams

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According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Andrew Lopez, the New Orleans Pelicans are shipping guard Eric Bledsoe, center Steven Adams, the Nos. 10 and 40 picks of the 2021 NBA Draft, and two future first-round picks to the Memphis Grizzlies for center Jonas Valanciunas and the Nos. 17 and 51 picks of this week’s upcoming draft. So, the Pelicans are giving up the Lakers’ 2022 first-round pick. Valanciunas, the 29-year-old veteran center, averaged 17.1 points, 12.5 rebounds, and 1.8 assists per game in 62 games played throughout the 2020-21 season. He also shot 59 percent from the field. The seven-foot Lithuanian also ranks fourth overall in true shooting percentage (.616) among active players. On July 11, 2019, Valanciunas signed a three-year, $45 million contract with the Grizzlies. He is set to earn $4 million next season.

Additionally, in 71 games played last season, Bledsoe averaged 12.2 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 3.8 assists. The six-foot-one guard also shot 42.1 percent from the field in the 2020-21 season. On November 23, 2020, as part of a four-team trade, Bledsoe and Adams were traded to the Pelicans from the Oklahoma City Thunder, along with two future first-round picks and the right to swap two additional first-round picks. Last season, in 71 games played, Bledsoe averaged 12.2 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 3.8 assists. His field goal percentage was 42.1 percent as well. The 11-year veteran is set to earn $18,125,000 in the 2021-22 season. Before he was traded to New Orleans, on March 4, 2019, the guard signed a four-year, $70 million extension. He earned his first All-Defensive second-team selection in the 2019-20 season.

Moreover, in 58 games played last season, Adams averaged 7.6 points, 8.9 rebounds, and 1.9 assists per game. The six-foot-eleven center ranks fifth among active players for effective field goal shooting percentage (.591). The eight-year veteran also ranks third in offensive rebounding percentage, with an active statistic of 14 percent. On November 23, 2020, the same day Adams was traded to the Pelicans, he signed a two-year, $35 million extension. For next season, he is projected to earn $17,073,171. To add to this trade news, the Grizzlies and Pelicans are swapping second-round picks in this year’s draft, too. Referencing NBA.com’s “Consensus Mock Draft” article, with the No. 10 pick of the draft, the Pelicans were originally expected to draft either Josh Giddey or Davion Mitchell at this number. However, plans have now changed.

From ESPN’s Bobby Marks, the trade will not be finalized until August 6th, and this is because of the annual salaries of these said players. Free agency will begin on August 2, 6:00 p.m. (EST). Furthermore, per Spotrac’s 2021-22 NBA salary cap table, next season’s luxury tax threshold is $136,606,000. The team’s current available luxury tax space is $22,555,195. The Pelicans and Grizzlies have a salary cap maximum of $112,414,000. Brandon Ingram, Bledsoe, and Adams had a combined cap percentage of 39.2 percent. Considering that Bledsoe and Adams are traded away, this will clear up $35,198,171 of dead cap space.

Yesterday, CBS Sports reported the news pertaining to Lonzo Ball’s desire to remain in New Orleans. With extra cap space, the team is expected to re-sign the 23-year-old guard. Likewise, for the Grizzlies, the teams has a luxury tax space of $37,019,952. Their current cap space is $8,321,229. As stated before, the transactions have not yet been finalized. The Grizzlies’ outgoing cap is now $14 million, but from the contracts of Adams and Bledsoe, they are bringing in $35,198,171.

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NBA Trade Rumors: Jazz considering trade offers for Bojan Bogdanovic, Joe Ingles, Royce O’Neale, and No. 30 pick of the 2021 NBA Draft

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Per one interesting announcement from Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer, the Utah Jazz are open to trading forward Bojan Bogdanovic, forward-guard Joe Ingles, small forward Royce O’Neale, and the No. 30 pick of the 2021 NBA Draft. Fischer stated, “The Utah Jazz are known to be one of the few teams actually searching to move playoff-tested talent. Retaining Mike Conley is an offseason priority, sources said, and the Jazz have held numerous discussions with teams around the league about offloading salary to create for Conley in free agency.” Point guard Mike Conley is set to become a free agent this offseason. Though, general manager Justin Zanik will aim to re-sign the 33-year-old guard in the coming weeks. Conley earned $34.5 million in the 2020-21 season.

“League personnel most often mention Joe Ingles as the Jazz wing to watch, and Bojan Bogdanovic and Royce O’Neale are also considered available for trade as Utah narrows its focus towards building a contender around Donovan Mitchel. The Jazz are also open to discuss trading their No. 30 pick, sources said.” In the 2020-21 season, in 72 games played, Bogdanovic averaged 17 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 1.9 assists per game. On May 1, 2021, in the team’s 106-102 victory over the Toronto Raptors, the six-foot-seven Croatian scored a season-high 34 points, shooting 12-for-22, and he finished his performance with four rebounds and four assists as well. On July 7, 2019, he signed a four-year, $73 million contract with the Jazz.

In 67 games played last season, Ingles averaged 12.1 points, 3.6 rebounds, and 4.7 assists per game. The six-foot-eight forward is set to earn $14 million in the 2021-22 season. Plus, among the mentioned players, Royce O’Neale has contributed the least. In 71 games played last season, he averaged seven points, 6.8 rebounds, and 2.5 assists. On January 19, 2020, the forward signed a four-year, $36 million extension with the team. He will earn $8.6 million next season. According to The Athletic, in the team’s seventh workout for draft prospects, they viewed Quentin Grimes, David Duke, Matt Mitchell, and a few other players. In the first round, if the team chooses not to draft any of the players they are holding workouts for, the organization will trade the No. 30 pick.

Just for a reminder, retrieved from Spotrac, the 2021-22 NBA luxury tax threshold is $136,606,000. Utah’s active roster cap is $133,284,695, the maximum cap is $112,414,000, and the current cap space is $72,990,215. Furthermore, center Rudy Gobert currently has the highest guaranteed contract on the team. On December 20, 2020, Gobert signed a five-year, $205 million extension with the organization. Gobert is set to earn $35.3 million in the coming season, whereas Donovan Mitchell will earn $28.1 million. Gobert and Mitchell combined consume 47.6 percent of the team’s salary cap. For the upcoming 2021-22 season, the Jazz have a guaranteed total of $129,719,453. Based on the team’s future outlook, the Jazz will have to make a trade or two in order to retain their star players. This should go without saying.

NBA Analysis Network reported a few days ago that a potential Jazz-Knicks trade target is Bojan Bogdanovic. Greg Patuto proposed the Knicks receiving Bogdanovic, while the Jazz would receive Kevin Knox II, and the Nos. 19 and No. 32 picks of the 2021 NBA Draft. Now, this could still happen at some point during this draft week, but then again, sports bettors and fans alike understand that these news reports could be just rumors. The most intelligent, unforthcoming general managers know not to leave bread crumb trails for the media, especially leading into the offseason. They will do everything necessary to protect their foolproof plans.

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Raptors, Pacers, Timberwolves, Kings, and Cavaliers among teams showing interest in Ben Simmons

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According to Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report, five teams have shown interest in pursuing Ben Simmons from the Philadelphia 76ers. Fischer reported, “Cleveland, Indiana, Minnesota, Sacramento, and Toronto all showed interest in acquiring the runner-up for Defensive Player of the Year.” Furthermore, the teams are wanting Simmons to change position from point guard to forward. “Multiple executives from those teams, when contacted by Bleacher Report, mentioned their excitement at incorporating Simmons as a play-making forward—not at the point guard position he’s played in Philadelphia.” The six-foot-eleven guard averaged 14.3 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 6.9 assists in the 2020-21 NBA season. This might sound fine for a young rookie, but as a five-year player, these aforementioned statistics were career lows.

However, the 25-year-old also earned his third NBA All-Star selection and second All-Defensive first-team selection last season. After a less than mediocre performance in his third postseason of his NBA career, the majority of 76ers’ fans would agree that it’s now time for Simmons to have a change in scenery. With a regular season record of 49-23 (.681), the No. 1 ranked 76ers in the Eastern Conference entered the conference semifinals as favorites over the Atlanta Hawks. Leading into this series, some NBA analysts were predicting Philadelphia to prevail four games to two. The 2016 first overall pick was expected to limit Trae Young in scoring and rally his team from point deficits, but none of this ever manifested.

Pertaining to postseason averages, Simmons had a playoff series-low of 9.9 points and 6.3 rebounds per game in the conference semifinals against the Hawks. This lackluster showing proved to be a more significant downfall for the superstar, considering Simmons had only five points, eight rebounds, and 13 assists in Game 7 versus the Hawks. In the 2019-20 season, he averaged 2.1 steals per game, leading all other players in the league. Moreover, Simmons currently ranks sixth in the NBA for active player triple-doubles (32). With a total of 32 career triple-doubles, he ranks 13th on the all-time list, tied with Clippers’ guard Rajon Rondo.

On July 16, 2019, Simmons signed a five-year, $169.65 million contract extension with the 76ers. He is set to earn $30.5 million in the 2021-22 season. Among these teams interested in Simmons, Cavs’ Kevin Love has the fourth largest contract guarantee of $91.4 million. Love is due to earn $31.3 million next season, and the 13-year veteran’s contract consumes 26 percent of the team’s salary cap. He could be traded this offseason. Timberwolves’ Karl-Anthony Towns has a contract guarantee of $130.8 million. The 25-year-old Wolves center will earn $31.6 million in the upcoming season.

Plus, Kings’ 2017 first-round pick De’Aaron Fox has a guaranteed contract of $171.1 million. Fox will earn $28.1 million next season. To add to that, Raptors’ Pascal Siakim has a contract guarantee of $131.4 million. Not to mention, reported by Yahoo Sports via trade rumors yesterday, the Golden State Warriors are a potential trade partner for Toronto. The Warriors could make a move on Siakim, clearing up space on the Raptors for Simmons. Per Spotrac, the 2021-22 season cap maximum is $112,414,000. In the coming weeks, one of these said five teams might make a substantial trade offer to the 76ers’ organization that they cannot refuse.

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