Scorpions Lose Some Letters For a Better Team, Trade Clarkson for Clarke
- By Michael Miller, Day 93, 2023
LAS VEGAS - The Las Vegas Scorpions, never content with a good thing, have decided to take another risk to balance out their roster in hopes of confirming their ability to make a run at the JBL Title, trading C/PF Isaiah Clarkson and salary filler (PG Christian Bond, SF Jared Grace and PG/SG Jaden McConnell) to the Baltimore Bullets for PF Dameon Clarke and the Bullets' 2025 1st round pick.
This was a trade of fit over talent. While Las Vegas believes Clarkson is the best player involved in the trade, team management also believes Clarke fits the set core of Lamar Francis, Derrick Griffin and Omar Grant siginificantly better than Clarkson did. When acquiring Clarkson from Houston shortly before training camp, the hope was that the Scorpions would have a legendary defense, and Clarkson's passing ability would offset some of the lane-clogging that was bound to occur.
While the Scorpions pulled the plug on the experiment too early to fully determine whether the plan would have succeeded, the early returns were not encouraging. At the time of the trade, Las Vegas had the 17th best offensive efficiency rating, 22nd best effective field goal percentage and declined slightly in both rebounding and defensive efficiency. The conclusion, perhaps reached prematurely, was that Grant and Clarkson were just too similar types of players and canceled each others’ best skills to the detriment of the team.
Meanwhile, Las Vegas had been in serious trade discussions with the Jailbirds for PF Dameon Clark during the 2022 regular season, but did not push too aggressively because of his impending free agency and the concern that he would receive a max $28 million dollar offer which the Scorpions would have trouble affording. Now that Clarke is on a much friendlier $22 million dollar contract for the remainder of this year and 2 seasons thereafter, the Scorpions believe they can fit him with the rest of the team.
Management hopes that adding Clarke helps the offense on multiple ways, pulling defenders away from the basket and opening lanes for both Francis and Grant while helping Griffin get better open looks on the wing. Meanwhile, Clarke is considered a plus defender, so the slight decline the team may have in the frontcourt by moving Clarkson will also be offset by Clarke’s natural ability and moving Grant back to his more natural position at the 5, where he won Defensive Player of the Year last season.
Lastly, the team is hopeful that Clarke will eventually take the young JJ Cooper under his wing, and help him develop good habits when it is Cooper's turn to start alongside Francis and Griffin.
While Las Vegas anticipates some short-term cohesion issues, by making this trade near midseason, it hopes the team may be clicking to hit full efficiency by the postseason. Las Vegas management is very excited to start a lineup in which all of the players seem to compliment each other better than when Clarkson was on the team.