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After dealing with early career struggles, Clarkson now a star for title contenders Jazz

Jordan Clarkson has become a key player in Utah's title conquest. NBAE (file photo)
By Ivan Saldajeno

MANILA—Jordan Clarkson's NBA career did not really get off to a great start.

Shockingly slipping to the second round of the 2014 draft when some mock drafts projected the former Missouri standout as a first rounder, Clarkson showed that he deserved to be selected earlier by contributing numbers you would normally see in a first round pick especially in the 2015-16 season, Kobe Bryant's final season with the Los Angeles Lakers.

However, the Lakers thought Clarkson would be better off the bench than a starter, and he has struggled to get back to the first five since then.

Clarkson remained a sub when he arrived at Cleveland and got a taste of NBA Finals basketball there, but he did not get his fine form during the 2018 playoffs.

After a full season of futility with the Cavaliers, they traded him to the Utah Jazz midway into the 2019-20 season.

One full season later, Clarkson believes he has found a home in Salt Lake City.

"This is my first time really being in a winning team and having a role in it," Clarkson said on Tuesday.

Playing in 68 games this season, Clarkson put up career highs of 18.4 points on 89.6 percent free throw shooting and 4.0 rebounds as he helped Utah finish the regular season with the league best 52-20 record, all of this while playing off the bench mainly as Donovan Mitchell's understudy.

"This team is just amazing—how we bond together," Clarkson, the newly crowned NBA Sixth Man awardee, further said. "Here in Utah with this organization, it's definitely a different feel."

Now a star for the team with the best chance of claiming the NBA title in terms of homecourt advantage during the playoffs, the 28-year-old Clarkson sees this as a major breakthrough for his career as he now reaches his prime.

"The winning and building relationship with my teammates and everybody here in this organization are the biggest highlights for me throughout the season," he further said.

Follow him on Twitter: @IvanSaldajeno

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