Ian Clark Looks to Build on Great Finish to Season

July 2nd was certainly the climax of the New Orleans Pelicans 2018 offseason. Rondo and Boogie went to the West Coast, Julius Randle chose to team up with AD and Elfrid Payton came home. A day that we will look back on years from now, as one that forever changed the direction of this franchise. But on July 6th, Dell made another move that could have a major impact for the upcoming season.

Ian Clark is thought of by most NBA fans, and perhaps even Pelicans fans, as a fringe rotation player. Most would say that he would be a great 5th guard on a good team. But the end of the 2017-18 season shows that he might be more than that. While most point to Rondo and Jrue as guys whose games took a turn for the better after Boogie went down, it was Ian Clark who had the most dramatic improvement when Boogie went down and Nikola Mirotic came in.

Prior to the All-Star game, Clark was averaging 17.8 minutes per game, scoring 5.8 points on some truly horrible shooting numbers (.418 FG, 29% 3-pt, .684 FT%). The offense as a whole was atrocious when he was on the floor (94 offensive rating). He played quite a bit in staggered lineups with Cousins, Miller, and Jameer Nelson and was relegated to being a spot up shooter. Clark got some open looks, but he is a rhythm player, and he would go multiple possessions without touching the ball. So, when he got the rock, he often forced a shot that wasn’t in the flow of the offense or he simply missed a good look because he was cold.

But once Boogie went down and Jameer was eventually moved in the Mirotic trade, Clark got to push the ball a little more. In the half court, he attacked off the dribble more, and his jumper started to go down because he was now in rhythm. Clark’s post All-Star break numbers were fantastic. His minutes went up to 24.8 per game, and his scoring doubled, as he put up 11 per game. He shot 49% from the field, 37% from three, and 90% from the line. The Pelicans offensive rating with him on the court shot all the way up to 107. No player on the Pelicans player saw such massive improvements in one of those categories, let alone all four.

The Ian Clark we saw before Boogie went down might not even be an NBA player. If he continues with that season, he might be in China this year. But the Ian Clark we saw after the All-Star break, is not only an NBA player, but numbers like that make him a legit 3rd guard. And normally, you don’t get third guards to sign for the minimum. When you look at those post All Star break numbers and look for similar players around the league, who averaged similar numbers over the course of the entire season, it is most similar to Tyler Johnson on Miami and Fred VanVleet of the Raptors. VanVleet got a new deal, paying him 9 million per year and Tyler Johnson is scheduled to make $19 million this upcoming season.

Clark didn’t have suitors this season, because teams likely saw him as the entirety of his season. But the Pelicans can look at him through the lens of post-Boogie, because ya know, Boogie ain’t here no more. And THAT Ian Clark is a valuable member to the team. That Ian Clark finished more games than Rondo. That Ian Clark hit the biggest shot of Game 1 against Portland and was a stud in the Pelicans Game 3 win vs. Golden State. In those final two must win games to end the season, Clark averaged 28 minutes per game, averaged 12 points, going 10-19 from the field, 4-9 from three, averaged 4 assists per game and didn’t have a single turnover. That’s not a 5th guard. That is an instrumental rotation player.

The Ian Clark signing came and went with little fanfare. And most are still looking for another guard that looks better on paper to take his place. Or perhaps Frank Jackson can leap ahead of him in the rotation and provide some highlight dunks and excitement. But for Jackson, or any other guard, to beat out Clark they would have to be rather exceptional. Because post-Boogie Ian Clark is not a minimum player. He is not a 5th guard. Post-Boogie Ian Clark is a major piece of the Pelicans playoff puzzle.

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