Editor’s note: This is the third in the annual series from Salt City Hoops ranking the current players on the Utah Jazz roster. Throughout the preseason, we’ll count up through the current Jazz roster, from worst to first, profiling each player as we go along. The profiles are individually written by Salt City Hoops’ staff of writers, while the ranking was selected by me (Andy Larsen). To go through JazzRank articles from this or past preseasons, visit our JazzRank category page. Ian Clark is #12.
If we’re brutally honest with ourselves, I think we’re still all waiting to see the Ian Clark that was named NBA Las Vegas Summer League MVP last year.
While Clark can’t realistically be expected to duplicate his sizzling summer league numbers, his greatest strength both in the summer league and at Belmont University, three-point shooting, has not translated to the NBA thus far, albeit in a relatively small sample size.
Clark played in just 23 games with the Jazz last season, seeing an average of 7.5 minutes-per-game. His overall field goal percentage was a mere 38.8%, and 35.5% from behind the arc. Compared to his senior season at Belmont, where Clark shot threes at a .459 clip and summer league, where he was a blistering 16-of-33 from three-point land, the results were clearly less than expected by all parties.
In fairness to Clark, the game situations between college/summer league and his sparse NBA minutes couldn’t have been much different. Clark was THE man at Belmont, being heavily relied upon for the lion’s share of his team’s offensive production. Similarly in the summer league for the Warriors, Clark had his fair share of looks and opportunity in a system that favored his strengths.
Smash cut to last season for the Utah Jazz. Clark went from big-fish-in-small-pond status to being a relative minnow hurled into the Great Salt Lake. When he finally managed to claw his way onto the court, it was almost exclusively in garbage time with the game’s result long since decided. As is the case with virtually every other NBA team when the game is out of reach, set offenses for the Jazz tended to be eschewed in favor of the chasing of personal stats by players who seldom see floor time. This certainly affected the type of shots Clark got.
Though Clark would undoubtedly like his minutes to increase this season, the optimal place for him this season from a long-term standpoint will probably be another D-League stint, this year with the Idaho Stampede instead of the Bakersfield Jam. This will be Clark’s best chance at getting significant minutes as well as working on morphing himself into more of a facilitating point guard, which Clark has said is something he’s been working on in the offseason. Languishing at the end of the bench behind a trio of young guards in Burke, Burks and Exum, all of whom are expected to be key cogs of this team both this year and going forward, figures to do Clark little good in terms of gaining valuable in-game experience.
Clark is still very young and still has the potential to develop into a serviceable NBA rotation player with his shooting ability. Defensively, he’ll have good size on opponents should he switch to point guard or be charged with guarding the opposing point guard. Frankly, I wouldn’t expect to hear too much from Clark this year in terms of significant contribution to the Jazz. His future, however, still looks fairly bright.