As we continue our series featuring the newest Rockets, we take a look at Gary Clark, the undrafted free agent signee of the Rockets.
Clark was injured during Summer League, so he has yet to suit up for the Rockets, but he will be a key contributor for the Rockets’ G-League affiliate Rio Grande Valley Vipers this season after spending four years at the University of Cincinnati.
Clark was named the AAC Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year last season as he led his Bearcats to a 2-seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Someone who covered Clark during his Cincy tenure is Phil Neuffer, site manager for SB Nation’s Down The Drive. Neuffer wrote an NBA Draft profile for Clark and answered some questions for us. Thank you Phil for participating. You can follow Phil on Twitter @philneuffer.
Jeremy Brener, The Dream Shake: What skills did Clark show at Cincinnati that put him on NBA radars and draft boards?
Phil Neuffer, Down The Drive: Gary Clark’s biggest strength is defense. He is a two-time Defensive Player of the Year in the American Athletic Conference and led the country in defensive rating (81.6) and defensive win shares (3.5) this past season. He can really defend multiple positions, but excels in the post especially. He rotates well and is a strong help defender and anticipates passing lanes and shots well, providing 2.5 combined steals and blocks per game this past season.
Due to his defensive ability, he can sometimes be pigeonholed into that defensive stopper category, but he is also a very good rebounder and provides efficient offensive work, which developed tremendously over the last couple years. He added expanded range with his jumper and was the only player in college basketball to rank in the top 10 in offensive and defensive rating last year.
Jeremy Brener, The Dream Shake: Are the Rockets a good fit for Clark? If so, why?
Phil Neuffer, Down The Drive: Based on what I know about the Rockets, they don’t really need any more scorers, but fortifying the defense and getting guys in there who can clean the glass never hurts, no matter who you are. Clark could be a really excellent complement to what the Rockets already do well and since he has developed an effective three-point shot, he could still hold his own offensively as well.
Jeremy Brener, The Dream Shake: What is his biggest risk?
Phil Neuffer, Down The Drive: Clark is not a ball-handler and although he passes well from front court positions, he is not immediately a fit for a small forward position. I bring that up because Clark does lack a bit in size, standing at 6’7”. With that written, that has never been an issue before, as he has tangled with and succeeded against guys like UCF’s Tacko Fall, who stands 7’6”.
Jeremy Brener, The Dream Shake: What is the one thing Clark needs to improve if he wants to succeed in the NBA?
Phil Neuffer, Down The Drive: As solid as his offensive game is, he could always stand to be better. At the professional level he will likely need to be more assertive and creative with his ability to find ways to score. He really came into his own this past season and started to show off a more varied offensive skill set, but to be more than just a guy that eats minutes here or there, he has to continue to get better.
Jeremy Brener, The Dream Shake: Who is Clark’s pro player comparison?
Phil Neuffer, Down The Drive: I think his absolute ceiling is Paul Millsap, but more realistically, I think he could fit in a similar role as Trevor Booker, posting double-doubles, defending well and being a key role player.
Jeremy Brener, The Dream Shake: What is your projection for Clark in his rookie year and overall career?
Phil Neuffer, Down The Drive: I won’t pretend to have an in-depth knowledge of the Rockets’ roster or needs, but I could certainly see Clark competing for one of the last roster spots and providing depth defensively right away. He will more than likely need some time in the G-League at some point, just to polish his offensive game, but eventually I think he will be a key rotation piece for an NBA team.
To read the earlier parts of our ‘New Faces from Old Places’ series, click here: