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Houston Rockets: The emergence of Gary Clark

By Sam Armstrong
Gary Clark #6 of the Houston Rockets (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
Gary Clark #6 of the Houston Rockets (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
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Gary Clark’s rise has been a pleasant surprise for the Rockets, and he fits well into the Houston Rockets’ style of play.

After barely getting on the floor in the first few games of the season, undrafted rookie Gary Clark has found his way into the Rockets’ rotation, averaging a tad over 22 minutes per game in Houston’s past two road victories.

In the squad’s miserable 104-85 loss to the Trail Blazers on October 30, Clark was one of the few bright spots. In 19 minutes, he put up 11 points on 4-9 shooting (3-7 on 3-pointers) with four rebounds, showing Mike D’Antoni that he could fit into the Rockets’ system as a newcomer.

The rookie’s emergence is also due to the shooting and defensive struggles of Gerald Green, as well as the poor play of Michael Carter-Williams, opening up minutes at the wing position. Clark provides the spacing that MCW couldn’t, as well as the defense and hustle plays that Green isn’t necessarily notorious for.

Clark doesn’t play like a typical rookie, however. This is partly due to his age, as he is days away from his 24th birthday after spending four years at Cincinnati.

In 91 minutes this season, Clark has committed just a single turnover while routinely making high-IQ plays. He also rarely over steps his role on the team while still playing aggressively, which is uncommon for a first-year NBA player trying to find his way in the league.

While P.J. Tucker provides excellent rebounding, defense, and hustle play for the Rockets’ starting lineup, Clark has a similar effect for the second team. Standing at 6’8”, the North Carolina native is averaging 8.3 rebounds and 2.8 blocks per 36 minutes, impressive marks for a player his size.

The main area that Clark has struggled with so far is his shooting as he is 9-29 from the field on the season and 8-27 from 3-point territory. However, it’s obvious that Clark completely buys into the Rockets’ style of play with the numerous 3-point attempts, and there is plenty of reason to believe that the shots will start falling.

In his senior season at Cincinnati, Clark shot 52.6 percent from the field and 43.5 percent on 3-pointers, leading the Bearcats to a 31-5 record and earning American Athletic Conference Player of the Year honors, per gobearcats.com. The rookie also shot the ball well this preseason, draining 10 of his 18 3-point shots.

Clark scrapped his way onto the Rockets’ roster and into the rotation, and he is a proven winner. Houston has every right to be excited about Clark, both for this season and as they look to the future. While he might not ever be the guy to rely on to drop 25 a night, he has the tools to be the tireless 3-and-D wing that NBA teams are craving more than ever.

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Unless otherwise noted, all stats provided by NBA Stats.

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