If I told you that last year’s champion and MVP would ride the bench, would you believe it?
Granted, I’m referring to Ian Clark leading the Golden State Warriors to a Summer League championship and gaining MVP honors on top of it. Clark is an undrafted rookie from Belmont, who enters the league at 22. Clark signed to a two-year deal with the Utah Jazz and is statistically is a great shooter, an area the Jazz desperately need to improve upon. Despite a roster with little depth, Clark may never get the chance he needs to reach his potential.
Point guard Trey Burke is the consensus ‘look out for this guy’ player on the Jazz, but just two years ago the Jazz drafted Alec Burks, a player many believed could fill the shoes left behind since Deron Williams’ departure. Since he’s been with the Jazz, Burks has averaged only 17 minutes a game, with players such as Randy Foye, Jamal Tinsley, and Earl Watson getting the bulk of the other minutes, players who have already peaked in their career.
To get better in the NBA, there needs to be a balance of minutes played for young players; not too many yet not too few. Burks hasn’t taken a big step yet in the NBA, but it’s unfair to say he’s been given the opportunity to do so.
Clark is no joke. When his numbers a truly dissected, from statistics figured by Sports Illustrated, Clark has a higher catch-and-shoot efficiency percentage and off-the-dribble percentage than Victor Oladipo, Ben Mclemore, A.J. McCollum, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and others who were high draft picks, many players who are predicted to become rookie of the year.
Clearly Clark has the numbers to back up his efficiency, a characteristic that rarely goes hand in hand with shooters. He also has playmaking ability which he showed scoring 33 points in the summer league championship. Before you start key bashing in the comment section, I realize summer league is summer league, but a stage is also a stage, and performances like that can only be encouraging.
With Trey Burke, 3rd-year Alec Burks, and new additions Brandon Rush and John Lucas III, Clark may get buried in the roster.
With a team already so young and so inexperienced it seems questionable as to why Clark won’t see the court often this season. But for the Jazz, a city and organization prided on winning, the team will still try to do everything it can to get any win that they can get it still. Which means giving more experienced players more minutes over the younger ones. A short term benefit that can stifle the potential long term development of players like Clark.
Clark fits the direction the team is headed, but is there room for one more for the summer league super star and if he rides pine will it create a ceiling for his career? Recent history hints at it, but fans will find out when Clark hits the floor as a rookie this season.