Apr 30, 2012; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Orlando Magic forward Earl Clark (3) dribbles the ball against the Indiana Pacers during the first half of game two in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals of the 2012 NBA Playoffs at the Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Mark Zerof-US PRESSWIRE
Earl Clark is the rare sort of youngster who made crazy strides in improving in 2011/12, but only on one side of the ball. Defensively, Clark developed into the Orlando Magic's best per-minute shot-blocker, which is a huge development: the former lottery pick finally has a reliable, bankable NBA skill which should at least keep him on the fringes of the league for a few more years.
The big issue is that Clark is, apart from the occasional stickback, a complete and utter liability at the offensive end. It's not right for a player with his size and athleticism to shoot 36.7 percent from the floor; the only way that percentage is acceptable at the NBA level is if the player shooting it is a three-point specialist. Clark didn't even try a single three in the 2011/12 season.
|Points Per Game||Rebounds Per Game||Blocks Per Game|
|Points Per 36||Rebounds Per 36||Blocks Per 36|
|PER||Rebound Rate||Block Rate|
All statistics in this table from Clark's player page at basketball-reference. Career-best statistics highlighted in gold; career-worst statistics highlighted in silver.
Anyone who watched Clark on offense this season can attest to his biggest weakness: his fondness for the mid-range jumper. NBA.com's stats tool indicates Clark attempted 37.4 percent of all his field goals from mid-range distance, but he connected on a mere 26.9 percent of them. Devoting such a large portion of one's game to the sports most inefficient shot only makes sense if one is, say, Dirk Nowitzki.
It's easy to understand why Clark takes so many of the shots: the Magic's offensive sets often call for their power forward to loiter around the foul-line area. And because opposing teams know Clark's not a reliable shooter, they'll feel free to leave him there, wide-open, so if the ball subsequently swings back to the Plainfield, NJ native, he'll probably shoot it.
Clark needs to become more comfortable putting the ball on the floor and driving to the basket in these situations, lest he continue submarining his chances of sticking as a rotation player in this league by jacking 20-footers.
For all his offensive flaws, Clark's an above-average help defender with good rebounding instincts on both ends of the floor. Those skills, coupled with his energy, make him an option as a situational player.