The Cleveland Cavaliers signed former Los Angeles Lakers forward Earl Clark to a two-year deal last week. Immediately, a lot of people began to question where Clark would fit in with the current roster. Clark played a lot of power forward for the Lakers last season, although he can play small forward as well, and like Anthony Bennett, the word “tweener” is thrown around a lot when discussing him. In particular, Clark’s offensive fit is discussed. What does he bring to the table? Can he shoot? Does he work well off the ball and provide spacing? Basically, can he compliment the key guys in the Cavaliers offense? Let’s look at Clark’s offensive game and try to figure out how he will operate within the Cav’s offensive system.
Clark’s shooting is…….interesting. On one hand, Clark didn’t shoot very well last season. His TS% was 51 percent (below league average), and he shot just 33.7 percent from three-point land. His mid-range game was very spotty as well. Looking at his shot chart from last season, it’s not the prettiest sight to behold.
However, a lot of Clark’s problems may have had to do with the situation he was in. I shouldn’t have to remind you how ugly the Lakers offense was at times last season, and the lack of continuity may have had an affect on Clark’s shooting. Guys were in and out of the lineup all year around Clark, and having players that will actually attack the basket consistently that aren’t Metta World Peace, and will command attention in the post, should free up Clark as a spot-up shooter. This can be shown by Clark’s shooting numbers with Dwight Howard on and off the floor; According to NBAwowy.com, with Dwight on the floor, Clark had a TS% of 53.4 percent and hit 38 percent of his threes, compared to 48.4 percent and 28.3 percent respectively without Dwight. Playing with Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters and Anthony Bennett, who will all find a way to focus the defense in the paint, I’d expect Clark’s numbers to drift more toward the “with Dwight” set of numbers.
Off the Ball
Let’s just say that there’s a lot of this when Earl doesn’t have the ball:
Earl Clark is a spot-up guy. He didn’t move much without the ball, minus the occasional screen or crash to the offensive boards. This is fine if he’s going to be a shooter for the Cavs; the floor spacing with all of Cleveland’s attackers and posts is welcome. However, spot-up guys aren’t really effective if they’re shooting under 34 percent from outside. I can see Clark’s three-point shooting getting better, but unless it gets to at least that 37-38 percent range, I can’t see him being a legitimate offensive threat defenses have to worry about, which will make life harder on everyone who does their damage at the basket.
Clark’s not a huge threat running the floor. Per the NBA stats site, he scored about 11.9 percent of his points on the break, or roughly 0.86 points per game. Comparatively, Kyrie Irving scored 2.47 points per game on fast breaks. Clark is decent at finishing at the rim, but it’s nothing to write home about. However, in the Cavs offense with Irving and Bennett leading the way, I don’t think Clark needs to be a threat on the break. This is an area where Cleveland should be really good already, so Clark’s not going to affect much here.
Clark should play a similar role on the offensive glass in Cleveland as he did in LA. Los Angeles had Dwight and Pau cleaning the glass; Cleveland has Tristan Thompson, Anthony Bennett and Anderson Varejao. Clark is a decent offensive rebounder and should support the other posts in this, but again, he’s not a game-changer here.
Role in the Offense
Ideally, I think Clark’s going to be a complimentary option in the offense. He’s probably going to be utilized as the kick-out guy in PNR situations, a spot-up shooter and occasional slasher. I don’t see the ball being in his hands much, as he struggles to create his own offense, and Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters are ball-dominant anyway. Instead, Clark should be free to lurk, find open space and take jumpers and threes. By doing this, I could definitely see Clark’s shooting percentages rise in the Cleveland offense. I’d like to see him get a little better at corner threes, which he shot 38.5 percent on but only took 26 of last year. If that were to become a bigger part of his offense, it would be huge for the Cavs. If Clark can hit outside shots consistently and stretch the floor, he’ll be a good signing. I could definitely see this as a mutually beneficial relationship between team and player. Welcome to Cleveland, Earl. Let’s see what you can do.