Earl Clark isn’t Dwight Howard, but Clark should help the Cavaliers.
Clark is, after all, coming off his best NBA season. He played for the Los Angeles Lakers this past season, his fourth in the league.
On Thursday, he agreed to a two-year contract for $9 million with the Cavs, according to multiple reports (first by the Sporting News). Clark can officially sign the deal Wednesday, when the free-agent negotiating period ends.
The 6-foot-10 forward has already been a journeyman of sorts. The Phoenix Suns selected him with the 14th overall draft pick in 2009, then it was quite a basketball adventure.
Clark was basically a benchwarmer in his first season (51 games with the Suns). He then spent parts of the next two years with the Orlando Magic, then the Suns again, then the Magic again, before landing with the Lakers.
It was there that he began to show some actual promise, playing 59 games (36 starts) and compiling career-highs of 7.3 points and 5.5 rebounds.
So, is Clark the small forward the Cavs have been seeking?
Well, not exactly.
He can play the position, and the Cavs do hope to use him there in spurts under coach Mike Brown. But it’s not Clark’s natural spot, said one opposing NBA scout, who wished to remain anonymous.
“He can be a mess at (small forward); we saw that last season with the Lakers,” the scout said. “But I like this pickup for the Cavs. He came along nicely and adds depth to the frontcourt. Can’t really go wrong with that type of signing.”
If Clark is truly more of a power forward, at least he has some range. He attempted nearly two 3-pointers per game last season, and at the very least, you can safely call him a “stretch four” — the moniker given to big men who aren’t glued to the low post.
That said, Clark joins starter Tristan Thompson, first-overall draft pick Anthony Bennett and starting center Anderson Varejao as guys whose games lean toward the power forward position.
Maybe Cavs general manager Chris Grant has something else in the works, maybe he doesn’t. Either way, again, the Cavs could’ve done worse. Everyone who follows this team is well aware of the old “injuries are part of the game” line – and when it comes to the NBA, hey, you can never have enough capable big guys.
Besides, Grant never set out to make a major splash in the open market. He and owner Dan Gilbert said long ago that it’s the third and final leg of how they plan to shape the Cavs, with free agency falling behind the draft and trades.
So while the rest of the universe waits on what the Lakers’ most-significant free agent will do (and as of early Friday, there’s still no word on Howard), the Cavs plucked a guy who they feel can help the team while maintaining their financial flexibility.
Of course, the rally cry of hope (as opposed to actual wins) is getting old around these parts.
No matter, while Clark isn’t a splash, he is a young player who should actually help the team on the floor.
It might not sound like much, but when you’re not really planning on using free agency to make you better, it’s actually at least a little something.
Now, Grant and his staff just need to figure out what’s next.