Ian Clark might be the New Orleans Pelicans’ best offseason signing

Published: August 1, 2017

It’s a situation the Pelicans aren’t accustomed to, in which free agents are willing to take less money or a lesser role in order to be a part of the organization. Never a premier locale in the NBA, it has taken the arrival of DeMarcus Cousins to push the team toward this kind of legitimacy. Now, in a dry summer where the money evaporated before the pool of talent, New Orleans is flexing its advantage with the signing of Ian Clark.

The Pelicans just signed Rajon Rondo toward the end of July, their spot in the conversation boosted by his relationship with Cousins. Today, news has broken that Clark is the latest addition to the Pels’ depth chart, and the reasons are clear. A shooter like Clark, a career 36.4 percent marksman, will find miles of open space operating around Cousins and Anthony Davis. Few teams have more than their cap exceptions or minimum salaries to offer at this point in the summer, and yet Clark chose New Orleans and a $1.6 million deal.

Though he is a two-time NBA champion hailing from the Warriors dynasty, he still has a lot to prove. Even with so much talent around him on the first and second units, Clark was a minus on both offense and defense last season, according to Box Plus-Minus, which attempts to measure a player’s value per 100 possessions based on box score statistics. The problem is that he contributes little besides his shot.

Fortunately for the Pelicans, he needs no more than a dynamic shooting stroke to provide value in New Orleans. The Pelicans are still looking to fill out their rotation, with only Jordan Crawford and E’Twaun Moore around for guard depth. The roster is still very long overall, meaning three-guard lineups might be even more common this year to maximize the versatility of these guards.

Last year next to Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry and the rest of the Warriors, Clark posted the most efficient shooting season of his career. He managed a 59 percent effective field goal rate, which shows the value of his three-point prowess. He shoots less than a free throw per game, doesn’t create points on assists, and almost 40 percent of his shots are threes. He is a frustrating player when viewed through a certain lens.

However, the Pelicans will merely need someone capable of filling the role that Hollis Thompson, Reggie Williams and several others failed to fill last season. Clark is perfectly capable of that, and the Pelicans didn’t overpay. Head Coach Alvin Gentry is familiar with Clark’s abilities and limitations based on their time together in the Bay. It’s a match that makes sense, and one that the Pels will have the opportunity to revisit next summer.

These are the perks of being an interesting team: unlike last summer, when the Pelicans targeted their guys early on and paid a rate above market value, they have benefitted this year from being patient. The roster is nearly full, and things look a lot rosier than last year.

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