By now we are all aware that the Cavaliers met with forward Earl Clark on Tuesday and will meet with him again today. While some people are intrigued by Clark, the general consensus is that signing him makes little sense with Tristan Thompson and Anthony Bennett already entrenched at power forward. So obviously the question that must be answered is how does Earl Clark fit with the Cleveland Cavaliers?
Clark has long been an enigma in the eyes of many basketball experts. As stated in this TrueHoop post written by Kevin Arnovitz just before Clark was drafted, he is an extremely skilled player, with the ability to dribble, pass, and shoot that most 6'10" players simply don't have. He is also a solid rebounder and above average defender. Clark is one of the rare "tweeners" who can truly guard both small forwards and power forwards. Clark has been compared to Lamar Odom, Marvin Williams, and Boris Diaw, players whose rare combination of size and skill allow them successfully play multiple positions (or at least they could before Odom got old and Diaw got, well, thick). However, like Odom and Diaw early in their careers, Clark has at times had trouble focusing those skills properly and possibly with giving the appropriate effort to maximize those skills. The light does seem to be coming on for Clark, as he was one of the few highlights in an otherwise frustrating season for the Los Angeles Lakers.
So what does all of this mean to the Cavaliers? In many instances, including on this website Clark has been listed as a small forward, rather than a power forward, and there is an excellent chance that small forward may be his primary position with the Cavs. According to Clark's profile page at 82games.com, some of the Lakers' most successful lineups had Clark playing the small forward position. In addition, Clark was more productive than the opposing small forwards he played against, something that was not true when he played power forward or center. Clark has proven to be at his most comfortable and successful at small forward, where he can use his variety of skills while having a tremendous size advantage.
Clark projects as a larger Alonzo Gee with a better handle and somewhat better passing and shooting skills. While this doesn't seem like much, the improved handle allows Clark to moved to the basket in ways Gee simply cannot, and the additional size allows him to match up with larger wings such as Lebron James, Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant, and Rudy Gay in ways the 6'6" Gee is unable to do. These seemingly small advantages could allow for huge improvements in the Cavaliers' offense and defense in terms of defense, size on the perimeter, offensive efficiency and spacing. Clark also compares favorably to Chase Budinger as he is a better defender and rebounder, equivalent passer, and Budinger's advantages in offense aren't so great to negate Clark's advantages. Throw in the fact that Clark will probably not command a salary anywhere near the $16 million over three years that the Timberwolves are paying Budinger, (3 years $12 million?) and you have an intelligent bargain for Chris Grant and the Cavaliers.