Although he didn’t make much of an impact, the play of the “throw-in,” Earl Clark in Orlando’s December trades surprised some and got many in the buiness thinking that he could have a bright future.
There were running jokes about Clark’s apparent love for throwing up ill-advised jumpers as soon as he got the ball and there is some definite truth to that. As you’ll see in the chart below, Clark’s offensive game, more specifically, his shot selection, needs a lot of work.
He still had a couple of games that make you think he can find his way to the bucket, score some points and be a solid player in the future, including his 12-point game against the Cavaliers on December 28th, his season-high 14-point output in a tough loss to the Hornets on February 11 and his 8-point, 9-rebound game in a a close February 9th win over the 76ers come to mind first.
“I think that Earl is going to be a really good player,” explained Stan Van Gundy after Orlando’s January 7th win over the Houston Rockets, in which Clark had 8 points and 4 rebounds. “I think that he offensively is very talented, he’s quick, he can shoot the ball, and he can put it on the floor.”
However, it isn’t offense that has Orlando’s coaches thinking Clark can be a real player in this league. Instead, it’s his potential on defense.
“I think when he understands what we’re doing defensive-wise, he can be an outstanding defender,” said Van Gundy” He moves his feet and he plays hard.”
This is why there are many in the organization who think Clark can become a good player and a special defender.
After the jump, you can see Clark’s numbers with the Magic this season.
As you can see, Clark’s offensive game needs a lot work but once he came to Orlando, he got more playing time and his numbers improved.
Clark’s talent is evident. He was the 14th overall pick in the 2009 NBA draft after spending three years at Louisville. Clearly with his athleticism and 6’10 frame, there is a lot of potential.
In a lot of cases, the problem that players like Clark have is that they just don’t work hard enough – that isn’t the case with Clark. He’s always in the gym and Van Gundy constantly praises his worth ethic.
Clark is a young player (23) with talent, which is something the Magic clearly need more of.
Earlier this season, the Suns refused their option on Clark for the 2011-12 season, which means he will become an unrestricted free agent once the new CBA is settled.
Clark has stated over and over again that he loves being in Orlando and wants to remain with the Magic. General Manager Otis Smith says he likes Clark but has been non-committal about Clark’s possible return. Of course, with a labor stoppage possibly on the way and the Magic way over the salary cap, that makes sense.
If Clark can be had at a relatively cheap price, I assume he’ll be brought back despite being the third power forward behind two other young players in Brandon Bass (26 years old) and Ryan Anderson (he’ll be 23 on Friday).
Clark also played some small forward for the Magic but he’s better suited at the four-spot. With Orlando’s depth, Clark is far from a necessity and if another team is tempted by his talent, he’d be crazy not to take the money since the Magic aren’t going to be able to offer him much.
You can read more about Clark’s potential and read further comments from Van Gundy here.
(Andrew Melnick is Howard the Dunk’s lead blogger and ESPN 1080′s Magic Insider (http://espn1080.com). Subscribe to his RSS feed, add him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter to follow him daily. You can download the HTD app here).