His first NBA season has passed, leaving Lakers rookie Jordan Clarkson with plenty that he feels he needs to prove.
That being named on the NBA All-Rookie first team had more to do with his talent than just receiving extended minutes on a struggling team. That he can become a starting point guard on a healthier and more depthful roster. That he can become the kind of vocal leader and playmaker that Lakers coach Byron Scott and general manager Mitch Kupchak has asked him to become.
Yet, Clarkson has already left some legacy in his short NBA career, no matter how small. After the Lakers secured him last year with the 46th draft that they bought from the Washington Wizards, Clarkson has represented hope for any second-round draft prospect determined to make it in the NBA.
“Jordan Clarkson is a great example of getting an opportunity and working his tail off,” Gonzaga senior point guard Kevin Pangos said on Tuesday after working out at the Lakers’ practice facility in El Segundo. “It’s paying off. I definitely look at that.”
The path Pangos and Clarkson have taken prove pretty different.
Most NBA mock drafts projected Clarkson as a late first-round pick, but questions arose about his late-seasons struggles during his junior season at the University of Missouri. But it appears most of that stemmed from Clarkson coping with his father being diagnosed with a form of cancer in his back, something he has since overcome. Before learning about his father’s cancer, Clarkson averaged 18.9 points on 48 percent shooting, 3.43 assists and 1.47 turnovers for Missouri. After the news, Jordan’s numbers dropped to 15.4 points on 39.2 percent shooting, 3.2 assists and 3.4 turnovers.
Meanwhile, Pangos averaged 12.8 points on 43.3 percent shooting and 3.8 assists through four seasons at Gonzaga, something that was not enough to earn an invitation to the NBA pre-draft combine.
“I was growing so much over the four years. I’m more ready than ever right now to move on to that next step,” Pangos said. “It’s in all aspects, whether it’s passing or getting my teammates involved and understanding the game and just knowing myself as a human being. I’m way more confident and I know more about myself. That helps.”
Pangos also believes it will help if the Lakers select him for various reasons.
He knows Lakers backup center Robert Sacre well because they both played at Gonzaga and with the Canadian national team. Pangos has already had informal contact with former Lakers guard Steve Nash, who is the general manager of the Canadian national team. Of course, Pangos also gushed about the Lakers’ storied history, the championship banners on the walls of the practice court providing a pretty inspiring visual for draft prospects.
“It’s awesome to have this opportunity,” Pangos said. “It’s the Los Angeles Lakers. There’s no better organization than that. I had this opportunity and excited.”
And if Pangos receives an opportunity in the NBA, he sounded determined to ensure he could provide the same impact Clarkson showed as he quickly ascended both with his growth and on the Lakers’ depth chart.
“I just really want to win first,” Pangos said. “Whatever it takes. I’m not going to label myself as this or that. I’m going to defend who I have to defend. I know I can shoot the ball and stretch the floor. I can get my teammates involved on the pick-and-roll. There are a lot of different things I feel I can bring. Whatever their needs are, I’ll be able to do that.”