By: Pardeep Toor
(How you like that from your power forward?)
In every draft there is always at least one player who is a sure thing and for whatever reason that designation turns against him. In 2006 it was Brandon Roy (6th) and Rudy Gay (8th), who fell too far because they were so good that they weren't exciting "prospects" anymore. In 2007 it was Joakim Noah (9th); last year, Eric Gordon (7th). This year it's going to be Earl Clark, a freakish athlete who defies positions and has been slowly falling out of the lottery into the mid-to-late teens as the draft approaches.
He's long, quick off the dribble, a mismatch at the three and four, athletic enough to be a defensive force and has at least one "Woah, WTF?" moment in every game that I've seen him play this year.
The knock on Clark has been complacency and failing to take over games offensively. Plus, being good at everything is interpreted as being not particularly good at anything. His passion is questioned similar to the way Rudy Gay was criticized after UConn's loss to George Mason and the subsequent draft workouts, which caused him to fall needlessly.
On the opposite end, the Atlanta Hawks overvalued Marvin Williams in 2005 because of similar athletic potential to Clark, taking him ahead of Chris Paul and Deron Williams. Clark's game is somewhere between Williams and Gay, and since he's projected to be taken in the teens, he might be the best value in the draft. Clark's physical tangibles and raw abilities are going to find him an NBA niche for many years to come.
2008-09 Averages: 14.2 points, 8.7 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.4 blocks, 1.0 steals, 45.7 FG%, 64.7 FT%
A little bit of everything. A vital player on any good team. His turnovers last year were quite high at 3.2 a game.
Best Case: Lamar Odom - as Odom is now, not the potential that Odom had coming into the league.
Worst Case: Tim Thomas - falls in love with the outside shot early in his career, gets paid based on potential, cranks dat in cruise control for the next decade.
Fit With The Pistons: Versatility. I bet if Michael Curry played Tay Prince, Amir Johnson and Clark at the same time, they could create a wall of long arms spanning the width of the basketball court. Apart from being visually amusing, the three of them (assuming Amir ever gets to play) have a chance to be a revolutionary lineup (Nellie-esque) in short spurts.
Coming off the bench as a backup forward, Clark is going to be another guy you can throw at LeBron, allowing the Pistons to guard the Rashard/Hedo lineup with ease alongside Prince and finally allowing them to match up against potential playoff teams with athletic forwards (Atlanta, Chicago and Washington). Of course, all of this is dependent on Curry wanting to test the flexibility of his roster and attempt to create mismatches. If the Pistons are going to start and play Kwame Brown at center all year then these options mean nothing. Clark's not going to be a franchise player for them, but he would solidify the Pistons at two positions (SF/PF) while adding versatility and athleticism to an exhausted Pistons' core.
Thoughts on Clark playing above the rim in the D next year? Let's hear it in the comments.