In any professional sports setting, a “next man up” mentality is essential for an organization to go on a prolonged run of success.
The business side of sports dictates that players are going to come and go, meaning that depth has become increasingly important in the era of free agency.
Not all players are going to realistically fit under the salary cap, and difficult choices have to be made to determine who’s expendable.
The main signing the Warriors made this offseason was Kevin Durant, but due to the salary cap structure, a lot of pieces had to be forfeited to bring Durant aboard.
Players like Harrison Barnes, Andrew Bogut, Marreese Speights, Festus Ezeli, Leandro Barbosa, and Brandon Rush couldn’t be kept due to salary constraints.
The slogan of the Warriors these past couple seasons has been “Strength in Numbers.” Yes the core guys like Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green were incredible, but the depth of the roster was nearly unrivaled.
Different complementary players could be counted on to step up during different games. The team was too potent for an opposing team to stop everyone capable of going off. It’s what made this team so difficult to play.
The front office did a great job of acquiring guys like Zaza Pachulia and David West to offset some of these role player departures, but it’s definitely going to be interesting to see what the rotations end up looking like.
Besides the distinct lack of rim protection, the biggest question mark heading into this season might be whether the depth is able to match that of the past couple seasons.
It’s impossible to answer as of now, because a lot of holdovers from last year’s reserves are likely going to be asked to take on a bigger role.
The main guy who sticks out to me in that regard is Ian Clark, who looks like he’s going to be penciled in as the second string shooting guard behind Thompson.
With guys like Barbosa and Rush gone, Clark has a golden opportunity to gain more minutes this upcoming season.
He’s still largely unproven to this point, though. He played just 8.8 minutes per game last season for the Warriors, which was a career high.
The backcourt is filled with bigger question marks than in years past, at least on the bench. Patrick McCaw looked really good in Summer League, but translation from that setting to an NBA regular season is an inexact science.
Right now, Clark probably has the edge to get more playing time in the backcourt than McCaw, but the main option off the bench is still going to be Shaun Livingston.
The versatility Livingston provides as a lengthy 6’7’’ point guard allows the team to use him liberally in different schemes.
In terms of total appearances, the most common lineup that Livingston was featured in during the 2015-2016 season was with Curry, Thompson, Barnes, and Green.
Ideally, it looks like that trend will continue next season, baring any injuries. Kerr feels comfortable deploying Livingston, Curry, and Thompson simultaneously, and with a largely unproven backcourt behind that trio, Kerr may opt to continue that pattern.
Clark is an intriguing player, but has some limitations. At 6’3’’, he’s probably more suited to play point guard based on size, but sees most of his time at shooting guard.
However, the way he stepped up to play more minutes after Curry got injured for part of the postseason was admirable, and speaks to his resolve and mental toughness.
He tends to make the most out of his constrained minutes. He averaged 3.6 points per game in his 66 contests last year, despite playing just 8.8 minutes per game.
In terms of points per minute amongst players who appeared in at least 40 games last season for the Warriors, Clark ranked 6th out of 13 qualifying players.
Granted he had just the 12th highest sample size in terms of minutes per game amongst that group, but it’s still a promising detail to justify Clark getting more minutes next season.
Before last year, he had never shot over 39% from the field in any season. He finished 2015-2016 with a career best 44.1% field goal percentage.
The perimeter shooting ability is encouraging, particularly from the left diagonal 3-point zone, where he shot 40.6% on 32 attempts.
From 16 ft. to inside the 3-point line, Clark shot an extremely impressive 52.6% last season, demonstrating his ability as a marksman.
That could continue to develop with increased playing time, and the depth chart is working in his favor right now.
Clark was born in Memphis, Tennessee, and has had to claw his way into the league and fight especially hard establish a niche for himself.
He played high school ball at Germantown High School in Germantown, Tennessee, and chose to attend Belmont University in the Atlantic Sun Conference.
During his freshman season, he was named a Mid-Major Freshman All-American by CollegeInsider.com.
During both his sophomore and junior seasons, Clark was named to the A-Sun First Team and lead Belmont to a A-Sun regular season and tournament championships.
The school moved into the Ohio Valley Conference before Clark’s senior year, but he still lead the team to both a regular season as well as a conference championship.
Clark ranked 3rd in the country by shooting 45.9% from 3-point range during his senior season, and was named the co-OVC Player of the Year and the OVC Defensive Player of the Year.
Despite his impressive accolades in college, the fact that he did it at a small school and against not as formidable competition left the NBA skeptical.
During the 2013 NBA Draft, Clark went undrafted. He signed on to play Summer League ball for both the Heat and the Warriors.
He was named the MVP of the Summer League championship game, and used his strong performance during the tournament to land a deal with the Jazz.
During his 2 seasons in Utah, Clark played sparingly, and was assigned to the NBA D-League multiple times before finally being waived by the Jazz at the end of the 2014-2015 season.
He caught on briefly with the Nuggets to close out that season, playing in 7 games for them after being claimed off waivers.
Clark was signed by the Warriors before the 2015-2016 season, and ended up playing more games for them that season than he had his entire career to that point.
The talent is there as a shooter, and Clark has a great chance this season to further entrench himself on this team by providing a dependable outside shooting touch off the bench.