If the Pelicans whiff on trading for say an Eric Bledsoe or Jeremy Lin type of impact player, they’ll be relegated to a backup point guard market consisting of names like Rajon Rondo, Ty Lawson and Shelvin Mack. The problem is, these guys don’t move the needle much in terms of scoring, so they might make for bad fits alongside AD, Boogie, Jrue and Solo for long stretches. Consequently, let’s turn our attention to a free agent that hopefully is on New Orleans radar because he wouldn’t rock the boat next to the team’s four most important players.
The Golden State Warriors are an embarrassment of riches. You know the Big 4, but their group of reserve guards were dynamite, too. Andre Iguodala wound up winning the 2017 Finals MVP and Shaun Livingston is the league’s best backup point guard. One name that you are probably not as familiar with is that of Ian Clark, a highly regarded shooter out of college but was headed down a possible journeyman path until this last season.
Clark’s size, standing 6’-3’’ and hovering around 175 lbs, was always going to be a deterrent, but the fact that his skills are better suited at shooting guard nearly cemented a short, uninspiring career. Fortunately for him, the league no longer looks at the traditional five lineup positions in the same manner, and even better, some teams are built to handle his genetic weaknesses. The New Orleans Pelicans, thanks to Jrue Holiday, are one such example.
First, let’s highlight Clark’s offensive package. Instead of noticing the ball go through the hoop repeatedly and getting giddy with glee over the 36-point total, pay particular attention to the way Clark moves on the court: how he utilizes screens, possesses a strong floater game and habitually makes cuts through the lane.
Clark embodies the way Alvin Gentry and Chris Finch want to see the roster to play next season: always on the move, passing, cutting and shooting. And defensively, Clark isn’t considered a slouch, especially if his responsibility is to focus on opposing PG’s — aka similarly sized humans. His anticipation, good hands and lateral quickness all help offset a 6’-6.5’’ reach, and a potential pairing with Holiday on opposing SG’s, a realistic and good scenario.
Why didn’t Clark fare better in Denver and Utah? A lack of a consistent role and being asked to exclusively play the point guard position. Read this excerpt from an article on Golden State of Mind — it’s from before his breakout 2016-17 campaign!
His role is finally defined. He isn't asked to be a point guard on offense, like he was Denver and Utah. Instead, he's another one of Golden State's stable of positionless ball handlers. He's a "3 and D" point guard -- a shooting guard on offense that defends the point because of his size. The Warriors don't need him to be a play-maker as much as a trap breaker and shot-taker off the bench.
If you require a more expert opinion, then listen to what Draymond Green had to say about Clark’s improvement last December.
“I go back with Ian,” said Draymond Green. “I was on the summer league team with him and Kent (Bazemore), and he was kind of a spot shooter. We just drove the paint and kicked it out to Ian and he’d knock the shot down. But to see where he’s at today, where you can play him at the point, where he can make plays off the bounce, where he can make plays for others, it’s amazing to see. He’s continued to work and work, and he’s a great guy to have on our team, that’s for sure.”
A versatile guard whose best asset is knocking down shots should be music to Dell Demps’ ears. Clark shot 37.4% from three-point range, but if you remove a horrible April slump, he could have finished right there with Stephen Curry from deep. Did you know that Ian Clark’s collegiate shooting statistics put C.J. McCollum, Allen Crabbe and Tim Hardaway Jr. to shame four years ago?
If Jordan Crawford can’t build on last season’s impressive run, who will be able to fill that necessary Leandro Barbosa role for Alvin Gentry? Nick Young is no longer a free agent option and C.J. Miles sounds like a wanted man elsewhere, but the Pelicans still have their full $8.4 million mid level exception to find help. Steve Kerr has a possible answer.
“He’s kind of taken (Leandro) Barbosa’s role from last year and he’s playing with a lot more confidence. He’s an excellent shooter, obviously, but he’s really improved his in-between game. He makes a lot of float shots, puts the ball on the floor and he’s a very smart player. We’re thrilled with Ian. He’s having a great year.”
Last season, Ian Clark became a force off the bench for the World Champions, and it appears he isn’t destined to be a one-hit wonder. No, he isn’t likely to become one of the top players at his position, but the Pelicans could do worse than to gamble on an upwards trajectory, whose skillset seems a good fit, and on a pivotal role player who could be had for a contract sum in the neighborhood of the MLE.