The Houston Rockets are going into this season with far more depth than they’ve had in the past. Due to that depth, many may be recalled to the Rio Grande Vipers. Will Gary Clark make the rotation?
Last season, Gary Clark proved to be a reliable contributor right out the gate for the Houston Rockets. There were 12 games in which Clark played at least 20 minutes and 9 of them came within the first 20 games of the season. The season didn’t quite go the way Clark would have wanted however, as he only averaged 2.9 points and 2.3 rebounds per night. Clark would later be sent to Rio Grande Vipers of the G-League, as he played in 7 games for the Vipers and averaged 12 points and 6.6 rebounds per game. Needless to say, Clark will be in line for a much better season this year.
The first area for Clark to improve upon is his three point shooting, as he leaves much to be desired in this department. He shot 29.7% from behind the line during the NBA season and simply HAS to improve. Due to his three point shooting woes, his overall field goal percentage of 33.1% can’t be accurately assessed, as he averaged 3 field goal attempts per game and 2.7 of them were from deep. So naturally if he didn’t shoot well from three, his field goal percentage was going to be low.
This is an area in which Clark will need to improve if he wants to stick in Mike D’Antoni‘s lineups, as D’Antoni always gives the green light to fire away from deep. Clark only averaged 12.6 minutes per game, in part because PJ Tucker averaged a career-high 34.2 minutes per game, who Clark would have been getting minutes filling in for. In addition, the emergence of Danuel House last season also quite possibly ate into his minutes at the forward position as well.
Clark will have to improve upon his offensive game to get more minutes, because each of those factors will remain the same. In fact, House is in line for more minutes and the Rockets signed Anthony Bennett, who has a better three point shot than Clark. Granted Bennett will have to first make the team, but three point shooting could very well be the deciding factor for cracking D’Antoni’s lineups.
On the defensive end, Clark is at his best, as he averaged 1.5 blocks per 36 minutes, which was third best on the Rockets behind only Clint Capela and Isaiah Hartenstein. There were 7 games where Clark had 2 or more blocks, and the Rockets went 4-3 during such games. The advanced analytics are the best gauge, as they are measured based on what the player actually does on the floor, and not just the stat totals.
Clark’s block percentage was 3.5%, which is an estimate of the percentage of an opponent’s shots that resulted in a block during that player’s time on the floor. By comparison, Clint Capela‘s block percentage was 3.9%, so Clark is actually one of the better defenders on the team by the numbers. In fact, Clark’s block percentage was third best on the team behind Capela and Hartenstein.
Clark also played in the Las Vegas Summer League, posting averages of 13.3 points per game, albeit on 37% from the field and 29.7% from deep. Clark led the team in steals, as he had 2.3 steals per night, which continued the trend of his defense bailing him out on the offensive end. Clark finished 8th in the Summer League in steals per game amongst players appearing in more than one game.
I’d be curious as to what happens with Clark because I believe the Rockets could really use his defense. Hopefully Clark is able to impress in training camp and show the Houston Rockets he’s ready!