With just over a month until the NBA season, the Milwaukee Bucks may not be done making moves just yet. They are rumored to be interested in trading for Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson as Utah continues to blow up their roster. Clarkson was the Sixth Man of the Year in 2020-21 and is a proven bench scorer. There are reasons to be excited about the possibility of Clarkson on the Bucks, but assuming the package to get him includes Grayson Allen, I am against it, and here’s why.
The case against the Milwaukee Bucks trading for Jordan Clarkson
When the Bucks were eliminated by the Celtics last season, it did expose their lack of backup ball handlers and scorers off the bench. The team struggled to generate consistent offense, and the guard play off the bench was not great, to say the least. Not only did Milwaukee struggle to shoot the ball, but none of their guards besides Jrue Holiday were able to handle the ball very well and run an offense. The only guy who really could was Jevon Carter, who was inexplicably kept on the bench for most of the series.
However, that series is simply not indicative of what this team will normally look or play like. Khris Middleton was out, which forced every single player on the roster to have to do more than they were comfortable doing. When Giannis didn’t have the ball, possessions that normally would be Khris Middleton isolations turned into a lot of forced drives to the hoop from Bucks guards who do not specialize in putting the ball on the floor.
The Bucks have built their team to be the Big Three plus spot-up shooters, and it has worked pretty well. Giannis obviously has the ball most of the time, Khris provides some bucket-getting ability and shooting, Jrue runs the point, and everyone else is mainly out there to just stand on the three-point line and space the floor. Now when one of your three main ball handlers goes down, it’s going to drastically affect the offense, but you don’t build the team based on how you look when something unexpected like that happens.
Could the Bucks have used another ball handler even when Khris was healthy? Yes, and they got one. Joe Ingles was signed in free agency, and he is a perfect guy to have off the bench who can run the offense, be a pick-and-roll ball handler, score it a bit, and play solid defense. The Bucks also re-signed Jevon Carter, who hopefully gets more minutes and can step into a bigger role off the bench because he can provide ball handling too.
Now, if the Bucks can get Jordan Clarkson by giving up Jordan Nwora, George Hill, and a pick, then great, that’s basically a free bench scorer. But I’m assuming they will have to give up Grayson Allen, and I would rather have Grayson Allen on this Bucks team than Jordan Clarkson. Although Allen struggled shooting in the Boston series (20.8 percent), he was fantastic all season long before that (40.9 percent). Among the 109 players last season who attempted at least five threes per game, only 12 shot better from three than Grayson Allen. One bad series (particularly one without Khris) should not overshadow everything he did in the 71 games before that.
Allen is a far better shooter than Clarkson. He shot nine percent better from three than Clarkson last season and shoots six percent better for their careers. On spot-up threes (the most common shot any role player will get on the Bucks), Allen was in the 94th percentile last season (45.2 percent), while Clarkson was in just the 28th percentile (34.5 percent). And although neither is great defensively, Allen is definitely better and gives more effort on that end.
The thing Clarkson has over Allen is his overall scoring ability, but keep in mind that Clarkson’s scoring averages really only look good because he is consistently playing on teams where he gets 12-15 shots per game. His efficiency (53.2 true shooting percentage and 50.4 effective field goal percentage) is below average and far worse than Grayson Allen’s.
Allen and Clarkson both played about the same number of minutes per game last season, and Clarkson averaged five more points but on six more shots and almost double the usage (26.2 percent compared to Allen’s 15.1 percent). On a Bucks team with plenty of scoring options and the big three taking a lot of the shots, Clarkson’s scoring outputs, which are his one big strength, would likely be capped, and it will be more about efficiency. Grayson Allen is the far more efficient scorer.
Jordan Clarkson is definitely more capable of handling the ball and being a volume scorer than Grayson Allen, but his efficiency, spot-up shooting, and defense are not good, and those are all things that would prevent him from making a great impact on this Bucks team. He would be fun to have for his ability to heat up and put up 20+ points some nights, but he also would likely be almost unplayable at times in the playoffs. The negatives outweigh the positives.
I believe that with the return of Khris Middleton, the addition of Joe Ingles, and hopefully more Jevon Carter minutes, the Bucks will have enough ball handling. On a team where the top two or three players are going to handle the ball A LOT, having several ball handlers off the bench isn’t necessary, and shooting will continue to be the most valuable trait any Bucks role player can have. Trading a 40 percent three-point shooter for Jordan Clarkson is not something I am interested in.
Stay tuned to see what happens with Jordan Clarkson and if he ends up in Milwaukee.