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Ian Clark quickly becoming most pivotal reserve in New Orleans Pelicans progressive offensive attack

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Could the former Warrior make a run at the Sixth Man of the Year Award?

NBA: Preseason-New Orleans Pelicans at Oklahoma City Thunder Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Prior to signing in New Orleans, Ian Clark was very much on my free agent radar. Once Dell Demps inked him to a one-year deal, Clark instantly became the team’s most interesting reserve off the Pelicans bench. The reason was simple: his potent attack seemed a tailor-made fit for an Alvin Gentry/Chris Finch-led offense.

Before training camp, I had mentioned my affinity for Clark on several of our podcasts, believing he would emerge more important than Jordan Crawford, and gasp, possibly E’Twaun Moore. It’s been just a couple of preseason games, but I’m buying, buying, BUYING!

During his time in Golden State, Clark make great strides in the efficiency department, posting a career best three-point percentage and true shooting percentage last season. Doubters claimed it was a mirage — the most talented team in the NBA was so good that anyone would shine on that roster.

Well, Clark is thousands of miles from Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant, but he’s quickly proving to be one of the New Orleans Pelicans most effective offensive options. This is important because much of the rest of the roster is struggling to make shots, and with the start of the regular season less than ten days away, Clark should be in line for heavy minutes.

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Okay, so let’s finish what I had started writing back on October 8th because it remains eerily pertinent!

After three games on the regular season schedule, Clark is averaging 10.3 points, 2.3 threes, 2.3 assists, 2.0 rebounds and 1.3 steals, but his raw numbers shine much brighter when factoring in his efficiency: 63.2 FG%, 58.3 3P% and a 2.3:1 assist to turnover ratio.

Despite joining the team on the same day he also appeared in his first game, Jameer Nelson is already averaging more minutes per game (24.1) than Clark (23.8).

This statement isn’t meant to be a knock on the coaching staff, but rather an observation of Clark’s future contribution potential. Through the first three games, he has the worst +/- on the team at -10.7 — so clearly there may be some issue that should be restricting his minutes. However, this statistic should be taken with a grain of salt considering the smallest of sample sizes at work and because Clark has been an offensive dynamo.

While the Pelicans spacing has yet to be the obstacle so many surmised following the end of free agency, only two players are shooting better than 33.3% from three-point range — so Clark’s 58.3% seems damn near a necessity on the court.

In addition to his long distance prowess, Clark is proving to be a useful scorer elsewhere, namely the restricted area. He seemingly has shown no trouble penetrating into the lane at will, and his ability to get around defenders inside the paint has led to a number of easy lay-ins.

stats.nba.com

This shotchart is precisely what Chris Finch dreams about in his sleep!

In yesterday’s victory over the Lakers, both Joel Meyers and David Wesley noted the need for Clark to be on the floor more often. A consistent threat would go a long way in keeping double teams away from Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins, especially while Jrue Holiday (16.7%) and Dante Cunningham (22.2%) continue to iron out their outside shooting doldrums.

Although Steve Kerr recently referred to Ian Clark as one of his favorites of all-time, the Pelicans were able to snag him on a minimum contract this past summer. If he maintains similar production throughout this campaign, not only will Clark be considered one of the biggest steals of the 2017 free agency period but perhaps a legitimate candidate for the Sixth Man of the Year come season’s end.

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