What Does Earl Clark’s Emergence Mean For The Lakers, Pau Gasol?

How Does Clark’s Style Compare With The Other Power Fowards?

With Pau Gasol, you have an older player who needs to be able to operate in the post–which is something that doesn’t work too well with Mike D’Antoni’s system. While he’s an extremely intelligent player whose offensive half-court and post skills are amongst the top in the league, sadly, his lack of defensive tenacity and agility no longer allow him to compete consistently on the other end of the floor in that position. Additionally, Gasol can seem “out of it” at times, which is also sad because he was once so tuned in to everything throughout his first three seasons as a Laker.

Antawn Jamison can be an offensive threat for other teams as he’s still a great scorer. However, inconsistentTy Lawson, Jordan Hill playing time has hampered him this season. When given 25-plus minutes, Jamison averages just around 15 points and seven rebounds on an efficient percentage from the field. However, his defense isn’t his strong suit.

Jordan Hill–while averaging just 6.7 points and 5.7 rebounds–is a player whose numbers don’t reflect his level of play. Hill hustles relentlessly (I call him Jordan Hustle), often grabs multiple offensive rebounds, and puts up double-doubles in limited minutes. Therefore, Hill is an excellent player in short spurts because he simply causes havoc for other teams and outplays everybody in bursts. His offensive skills aren’t exactly polished, though, and his range is limited.

Now, judging solely on his performance Wednesday night (since I’ve honestly never seen him play big minutes prior), with Earl Clark you get an active defender, someone who can drive into the lane, someone who doesn’t need plays run for him, and someone who can knock down open shots. He proved that with his versatility, he can be deadly from all areas of the floor, on both ends of the floor.

What Should The Lakers Do?

Well, it’s hard to say exactly what the Lakers should do with Earl Clark after just one game, but I think the timing for this experiment couldn’t be more perfect: Start Earl Clark.

Why is that?

When I detailed the Lakers’ depth chart before the start of the season, I noted that the Laker with the most length to contend with Kevin Durant was Earl Clark. Durant stands 6’10” with a freakish wingspan of 7 feet, 4.74 inches while Clark stands the same height with a wingspan of 7 feet, 2.5 inches. Additionally, Clark is listed at 225lbs, which could allow him to be somewhat quick enough to keep up with Durant. I stated that if Clark were to focus on his defense of players similar to Durant–or even just Durant–he could find himself some playing time with the Lakers.

Well, it appears as though Clark made a case for breaking into the rotation anyway, and guess who the Lakers play next? The Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday night.

While Mike D’Antoni has played Metta World Peace at the power forward position recently, and he’s performed extremely well offensively in that capacity, World Peace simply doesn’t have the size or athletic ability to disrupt the Durantula.

Devin Ebanks has shown flashes of playing well against Durant, but is also a bit undersized. Normally, that’s who I would like to see on Durant, but given the fact that Earl Clark will be coming off a career-high game coming into Friday’s game, the obvious choice is to start him on Durant.

Kevin Durant–while a natural small forward–has played at the power forward position a bit this season, and has been extremely effective at it (with a 37.9 Player Efficiency Rating!). The league is truly playing smaller, and players such as Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, and LeBron James–who are typically known as small forwards–are playing the power forward position at a highly effective offensive rate.

While World Peace may be the best option to guard a player such as Anthony when he plays the power forward position, “small ball” has taken over the league and Earl Clark could provide the versatility, size, and strength at that position to help defend against some of the other, taller players starting on Friday.

Next Page: What About Pau Gasol When He Returns?

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