Remember when the Suns acquired Shaquille O’Neal from the Miami Heat in exchange for Shawn Marion and Marcus Banks? Do you remember who used to come off of the bench to relieve Shaq when he needed a breather? Do you remember the pick at which we obtained this mysterious bench player? Well, the player is Robin Lopez and we acquired him with the 15th pick in the 1st round.
We also got another player the following year with our first round pick, which was the 14th pick. He was primarily set to ride the pine for his rookie season. He played primarily at the SF or PF position whenever he was in the fray. This player that I am speaking of is none other than Earl Clark.
Many Suns critics and Suns fans gave up on Robin Lopez after his first season as a member of the Phoenix Suns, saying he would never live up to his "potential." Robin then came out in his second season after Shaquille O’Neal was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers and showed his doubters that he is a true big man and that he only needed some time to grow. All it took was the departure of one player, some hard work, and a new season to see the star potential with Lopez. Do you see where I am going with this yet?
The same people that doubted Lopez after his rookie season, (including myself) now doubt Mr. Clark. Hell, many of the BSotS fans say we should ship him off to another team. There are a few differences between Earl and Robin; there is no denying that, but could we see a huge rise in his skills this season? I say absolutely. Please, allow me to break down the gist of it.
Earl Clark is seen as a tall, long-armed, athletic, ball handling big man that is somewhat of a tweener. He can play at the 3 or the 4. He is listed at 6’10" and is able to hit a jump shot as long as his stroke includes a bit of confidence behind it. He was a McDonald’s All-American and a very promising player at Louisville. I won’t go much deeper than that into his past, but let’s just say that if you are chosen 14th overall in the NBA Draft, you did something right. So here is the deal. Amare Stoudemire is now gone, making way for other players such as Warrick, Lawal, and Clark to show that they have what it takes. With Clark possibly getting more minutes this year, we could see another Dragic/Lopez breakthrough in our midst. Clark plays a lot like a three, but has the height of a four. If he can incorporate some work ethic, getting the ball into the paint, and some of that drive that Lopez has he will shine. He, as previously mentioned, handles the ball VERY well for a 6’10" forward. Does this remind you of anyone? Yes, Hedo Turkoglu. Depending on how well he will fit in defensively at the power forward spot, we could see even more minutes for young Earl.
When comparing Earl and RoLo I noticed quite a few similarities. Robin played 60 games in his rookie year with limited minutes, while Earl played 51 games with limited minutes. Their FG% is quite different, but that is expected when comparing a rookie jump shooter to a rookie big man that bangs in the paint. Also, their turnover ratio is identical for their rookie seasons. Earl grabbed a bit over 1 rebound per game he played in as compared to Robin (a center) grabbing about 2 boards per game. Each averaged about 3 points per game as well. Earl also has upsides over Robin as well, including assists, less fouls, and a higher FT%.
Did I mention Dragic’s numbers were very similar as well? Goran averaged about a point and a half more than Earl, but played 13 minutes per game as compared to 7.5. Also, just as speculation, Goran looked just as confused on the court during his rookie season as Earl did. This can account for the lack of aggression on the offensive end. Once, training camp begins I am sure Alvin will have he same advice for Earl as he did for Goran. Other than that, both of these players had their free throw percentage in the 70’s, which is good to see, especially for a forward.
My plea to you Suns fans and bloggers is that we give Earl at least one more year to show his worth. He does need a grittier attitude and a stronger drive to be great, much like Dragic and Lopez have shown they have, but not everyone develops that sense of aggression and desire in their rookie or even their sophomore year. I am hoping that you see Earl’s worth, because I know he has the potential to be great. Dragic tried to be Nash in his rookie year and found out that he just needed to be Goran. Maybe Earl will stop trying to be something he is not, and just play basketball.
Please vote on the poll. *Constructive criticism is always welcome.* If I messed up on a statistic, do not be afraid to correct me. All stats come from ESPN player stats page. Thanks.