Knicks targeting effective scoring guard to bolster their bench

NBA: Indiana Pacers at Utah Jazz
Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

Last night’s win over the Washington Wizards further exposed the Knicks’ issues with their bench scoring, as having to run your starters 38+ minutes in a contest against a team 20 games below-.500 is a reflection of how subpar their second unit is. Since acquiring OG Anunoby the Knicks are 8-2 with a 13.1 Net Rating, but they’re going to run their starters into the ground if they can’t find an effective bench scorer to keep that unit afloat. Jalen Brunson seemed to be dealing with an ankle issue last night, and they don’t have an alternative option to fill his role if he’s hurt or off the court.

Marc Stein is reporting that the Knicks have an interest in Jordan Clarkson, as the former Sixth Man of the Year could bolster their scoring unit and give them the boost they are desperately searching for.

Could the Knicks Land This Proficient Scorer?

Utah Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson (00) dribbles up court against the New York Knicks during the second half at Madison Square Garden
Feb 11, 2023; New York, New York, USA; Utah Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson (00) dribbles up court against the New York Knicks during the second half at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The Knicks aren’t just looking for someone to score baskets for them off the bench, but to command the second unit on offense and be their primary ballhandler. Jordan Clarkson checks off all of those boxes, as he’s averaging 17.9 points per game while shuffling in and out of the starting lineup for the Utah Jazz. He’s used to a sixth-man role, winning Sixth Man of the Year in 2020 in his first full season. He’s not an excellent floor spacer, shooting just 31.4% from three on 5.6 attempts per game, but the aggression is something New York yearns for off the bench.

He doesn’t need other players to create for him, instead running the tempo of the offense himself, and he’s an underrated playmaker as well. Clarkson is averaging 5.2 assists per game, ranking in the 83rd Percentile in Playmaking Talent and the 99th Percentile in Potential Assists per 100 Passes. With the Knicks having multiple shooters off of the bench who can space the floor, the 31-year-old guard could orchestrate an offense that can run a higher tempo and drop a barrage of threes.

A recent hot streak by the Utah Jazz could prevent them from being so eager to sell however, as they’ve gone 8-2 in their last 10 games and have climbed into the ninth seed. They would qualify for the Play-in Tournament, but it’s clear that they’re not ready to compete for an NBA title, so perhaps they decide to sell off some pieces still. Jordan Clarkson is under team control for two more seasons at roughly $14 million a year, and that allows him to be a potential salary matcher in a bigger deal this summer.

NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Dallas Mavericks
Jan 3, 2024; Dallas, Texas, USA; Portland Trail Blazers guard Malcolm Brogdon (11) drives to the basket past Dallas Mavericks center Dereck Lively II (2) during the second quarter at the American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

It was also reported by Marc Stein that the Knicks have an interest in Malcolm Brogdon, Terry Rozier, and Alec Burks, who would all present the same solutions to their bench issues. Furthermore, the four players mentioned by Stein have extensive experience as bench scorers and could have their skill sets maximized as the primary ballhandler in those spurts where Brunson isn’t on the court.

For the sustainability of this team, they’ll need to find someone who can prevent the Knicks from needing to run their starters out for nearly 40 minutes a night, and Jordan Clarkson is certainly a viable solution.