While not the most shiny, or earth shattering signing this off-season, I think the addition of Earl Clark, at the small forward position can be a huge piece for the Cavaliers this season. Much to the chagrin of fans, and some writers, there was little else done to upgrade the position for this team. Reading the tea leaves a bit, the haste with which Clark was pursued makes me think there is something they really like, and that they see him as an upgrade to Alonzo Gee. Playing Clark at the small forward position creates a major advantage for the Cavaliers against most teams.
Earl Clark stands 6'10, with a 7'3 wingspan and 9'1 standing reach. Andrew Bynum is 7'1, with a 7'6 wingspan and a 9'4 standing reach. Tristan Thompson stands (at combine) 6'8 with a 7'1 wingspan and a 9'0 standing reach. Tyler Zeller and Anderson Varejao are both very similar. 7' tall, 7' wingspan, 8'8" standing reach. This size creates an incredible problem for the offense when used properly. With a nod to the obvious perils of a large trio in transition, we will focus on the half court.
In half court sets, attempting to execute against such a large front line is difficult. In a defense like Mike Brown's, which is predicated on all 5 players "being on a string" of rotating and recovering, having three players of that size on the court allows the guards to attack screens much more effectively. The players hedging (if attacking properly) will be able to either ward them out far enough for the guard to recover, or for another big to rotate in to cut off or challenge the roll man. It goes without saying that all of that size is difficult to finish over, and with the exception of Tyler, Bynum, Clark, Andy, and Tristan are all exceptional rebounders. This is a style of defense that promotes one shot, usually a bad shot or contested shot, and a personnel grouping that will get the ensuing rebound.
A transcript from Sport Science (Credit: ESPN - Sport Science) This excerpt lists Bynum's length and reach smaller, but every other listing I found supported the 7'6 - 9'4 measurements.
The average height of an NBA center is 6’10", the Lakers have a forward that tall plus two seven footers. The average NBA center has a wingspan of 7’2" with a vertical leap of 31.7" and can cover 3,616 cubic feet. The Lakers’ Andrew Bynum has a wingspan of 7’3" and a vertical leap of 33 inches which means he can cover 3,849 cubic feet, that’s nearly 7% more than the average NBA center. Pau Gasol has a 7’5" wingspan and can dunk from the free throw line, he can cover 3,929 cubic feet.
When Gasol and Bynum are on the floor at the same time, assuming their coverage isn’t overlapping, with a single step in any direction they can get a fingertip on any shot in an area covering 70% inside the three-point arc. That’s why the Lakers led all teams in the playoffs in blocked shots. Of course they don’t block every shot but they do force players to change their shot, that’s a big reason why the Lakers gave up the lowest percentage of field goals in the Western conference
Athletically, Clark's combine drills and measurements compare almost equally to Jeff Green and Kevin Durant. He is also known to have a great motor, which will assist with the style of defending noted above. For a great breakdown of Clarks game, view this breakdown from Drew Garrison (Credit Silver Screen and Roll -@DrewGarrisonSBN)
While there will be some who think nothing has been done at small forward, others who think that Clark's time in Orlando and a breakdown based on that and his time in LA (of which only part was related to how we'll use him) has basically written the book on him, I am of the opinion that we have found something better at small forward, and it will be extremely fruitful for us. Hopefully I have helped you see some of that as well.