Potential Indiana Pacers free agents: Ian Clark

The Indiana Pacers have needs in the depth department heading into this summer. Signing Ian Clark could improve the guard rotation.

Joe Young was a cool story for the Indiana Pacers this season. When Darren Collison was injured, he filled in spot minutes adequately and proved that he actually has some NBA skills. But the Pacers were still outscored by 33 in his 558 minutes, and the squads -5.5 net rating with Young in the lineup was far and away the worst figure of any Pacer to play 500 minutes. The Joe Young time was rough, and the Indiana Pacers could use some stability at the lower ends of the guard rotation going forward. It would help navigate injuries and would allow McMillan to be more confident in his management of minutes every night.

Insert Ian Clark.

Let me get ahead of your anger here. I understand Ian Clark is not a sexy or franchise altering signing. But for a minimum contract – like he made this year – or at the most a very small deal, Clark would be an awesome bargain. Again, the Pacers should not spend big money on Ian Clark. But they should absolutely spend some pocket change on him.

Picture everything you have ever wanted Joe Young to be. That is what Ian Clark is now, and he has the potential to be so much more.

One of Clark’s biggest fans is Cranjis McBasketball. No, not the impractical jokers Mr. McBasketball, but the one from Twitter. He’s a super smart guy, and he had this to say about Ian Clark when I reached out to him:

“Ian Clark isn’t a game changer, but he was a value at the league minimum and has a good chance to be next season on a similar deal. He’s a very bad defender, but on the offensive end he has shown the ability to be a solid slasher and an average perimeter shooter. He had an above average possession share and minutes share this season, indicating that he did play an impactful role for the Pelicans. And his offensive impact by the advanced metrics checks out too: He’s about average by his CPOE and ORPM, and above average by his ORAPM and offensive luck-adjusted on/off rating. He played more of a SG role in Golden State and flashed what he can do off-ball, but this season had a role change to more of a primary ball handler position and it resulted in a top 20 pick and roll ball handler scoring efficiency. Again, his defense is atrocious, but he can be a serviceable offensive player as a team’s 9th or 10th player on the cheapest of contracts.”

Atrocious defense is concerning, but can anyone be a worse defender than Joe Young? Clark is a better defender than Joey Buckets, he had a better defensive box plus-minus and more defensive win shares. But more importantly, as evidenced by the above breakdown of him, he is a far superior offensive player.

The most important distinction about Clark’s game is that he was top-20 in efficiency in ball handling in the pick-and-roll. He ranked in the 84.1 percentile leaguewide as the ball-handler in the pick-and-roll at .95 points per possession. The Pacers ranked 10th in PnR frequency last season. Clark would have all the opportunities to thrive.

He is splendid at changing speeds and bursting past defenders in the lane. Once he gets a full head of steam, he is a menace:

Clark finished 68 percent of his shots from around the basket this past season, a number that would have been second on the Indiana Pacers. For reference, Joe Young was only able to drop in 54.8 percent of his looks from the same distance. Clark’s touch is lethal.

If you sag off him on D, he can pull up in the PnR. His jumper is solid, he is a career 35 percent three-point shooter, and on long twos, he has hit 47.3 percent over his five year NBA tenure. When he gets a small opening, he isn’t afraid to let it fly:

(side note, those purple New Orleans jerseys are sensational. Good for the Pelicans.)

Did you see that crossover by Clark? Concise, effective, and most of all, filthy. His handle is solid, which is encouraging for a guy who just finished his first season playing more of an on-ball role than off. His turnover rate this past season was a minuscule 9.9 percent, his career-low. He takes care of the rock.

But as I was saying, this was his first season as a ball handler. He spent much of his time with the Warriors (and other stops) playing as an off-ball guard, and that just adds to his pallet of skills. He can navigate the court well on offense, and he knows how to get to his favorite areas and spot up:

Clark had an effective field goal percentage of 50 percent in New Orleans on catch and shoots, which is just okay. But with a lack of viable shot creators, it was hard for him to get good looks. In Golden State, that number was over 60 percent, showing that he can thrive next to a great shot creator…

Like Victor Oladipo! And Darren Collison! Even Bojan! The opportunities would be there for Clark to play an off-ball role, and he thrives when given those chances.

Signing Clark isn’t a franchise trajectory altering move. But not everything is. He checks tons of boxes that would help the Indiana Pacers be a better basketball team. Guard depth would improve in Indiana. He can play better defense than the guy he would be (effectively) replacing. His play style suits what the Pacers do. He can play multiple positions. Ian Clark would be a great fit for depth purposes, and to top it all off, he’s only one year older than Joe Young. He would be a great addition to the team, and the front office should look into bringing him in.