The Utah Jazz have signed shooting guard Ian Clark to a two year contract. The Jazz are in the final stages of filling out their roster for next season and have mostly had their core established. The major hole in the roster is at point guard where Ian won’t help. The Jazz always carry three point guards, but currently only have two: a rookie (Trey Burke) and veteran under-performer (John Lucas III). This makes it likely that the Jazz are looking for an impact player at point guard (take a look at my take on their point guard plans: http://hoopshabit.com/utah-jazz-trading-for-another-point-guard/), and any additional players signed, like Ian, will be likely close to league minimum salary type players and any other position but point guard. So, why Ian Clark, a shooting guard out of Belmont?
There are two types of minimum salary players out there for the Jazz. First, they could opt for the John Lucas type player who has had his chances to make a name in the NBA and is unlikely to draw much demand from other teams, but can step in and play some minutes here and there. The other type of player is the Ian Clarke type of player, the unproven player with intriguing skills. With where the Jazz are in their rebuilding process, they made the correct choice by signing the second type of player. At worst, they have someone to sit at the end of the bench and fill a spot on the roster. At best, they have discovered a rotation player for cheap. Let’s not forget, over the last several years the Jazz have been responsible for helping two young, overlooked players get their shot in the NBA and it has really paid off for them. The signings of Wesley Matthews and DeMarre Carroll were extremely similar to the recent signing of Ian Clark.
Ian was undrafted out of Belmont this year. This is somewhat surprising if you take a look at his collegiate career. Ian played four years of college ball, something the Jazz have historically valued as they believe a rookie with four years of college ball may be better ready to play in the NBA than a freshman or sophomore. Clark also impressed in summer league, winning the championship game MVP after scoring 33 points. Beyond that, there are two important things to look at if you want to know whether Ian can develop a nice NBA career. Most importantly, he can flat out shoot the basketball. Clark had the best true shooting percentage in the nation last year. He shot nearly 46% from three in 222 attempts. This doesn’t guarantee success in the NBA, but there are plenty of successful players who do little more than shoot three pointers. However, this isn’t the extent of Ian’s game. Clark was the defensive player of the year for his conference in two separate seasons, in two separate conferences (due to Belmont’s move to the Ohio Valley Conference). This means that at the very least, Ian has enough intelligence to understand where he needs to be on the defensive end of the court and that he has enough athletic ability to keep up. In fact when you think about Ian’s strengths, he sounds an awful lot like Wesley Matthews who is a player that many Jazz fans are still deeply disappointed is not wearing a Jazz “note” on his chest any longer.
Whether Ian gets much game time next season remains to be seen. The Jazz have several players who will get minutes at the shooting guard position that Ian plays. The Jazz will finally give Alec Burks heavy minutes at the shooting guard position to see what he’s capable of in a bigger role. Brandon Rush has proven himself capable and will likely get a season long tryout for the Jazz and other teams to evaluate if he still has what it takes. Gordon Hayward will be the team’s main offensive threat and will likely start at small forward, but the Jazz like him at shooting guard as well. When you throw Marvin Williams and Richard Jefferson into the wing logjam, minutes may be hard to come by for Clark. It’s entirely reasonable to expect Ian to warm the bench all season, but he will become the next Wesley Matthews if one of the players ahead of him go down with an injury or under-performs.