Yesterday it was announced that the Cleveland Cavaliers had a acquired one of the more sought after free agents of the 2013 NBA offseason, coming to terms with Andrew Bynum on a two-year, $24 million contract. Most believe that this makes the Cavaliers a playoff contender, if Bynum can remain healthy for most of the season.
What had much less publicity, but has a higher likelihood of pushing Cleveland closer to a return to the NBA Playoffs, are the two signings they made before adding Bynum. On July 4, it was announced that the Cavaliers had reached an agreement on a two-year deal with free agent Earl Clark and two days later that they had signed Jarrett Jack to a four-year contract.
Neither of these players come with the same name recognition as Bynum, but both could end up having more of an impact.
The deal for Clark was reportedly $9 million over the two seasons. The 6'10" forward can play at either the three or four spot effectively. Last year he played 59 games for the Los Angeles Lakers averaging 7.3 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 1.1 assists in 23.1 minutes per game. These were all career bests for Clark, who became a key part of the Lakers' rotation and even started 36 games for Los Angeles.
Clark shot 44% from the field for the year, in a combination of plays at the rim and jumpers. He was even effective shooting the three, finishing at almost 34% from long range.
The 25-year-old Clark's numbers have room for improvement, and hopefully he will continue to develop in Cleveland, but his main asset is his hustle and work ethic. Clark continuously gave 100% on a team filled with players that did or could not. He was a burst of youthful energy and had many big moments for the Lakers last season.
If he can bring that same energy to the Cavaliers team that is filled with youth, he can help promote the hustle and work rate required to be successful. He may not become an All-Star for Cleveland, but he is another role player who fans will grow to expect to bring it hard every night on the court.
Jack's name has a bit more clout. The seven-year player's deal is for $25 million over the four years, but he is much more of an established veteran. Last year, the point guard played as the backup to Stephen Curry on the Golden State Warriors, averaging 12.9 points and 5.6 assists while shooting 45% from the field and 40% from three-point range.
In the post season, Jack upped his scoring to 17.2 points in the 12 games the Warriors played. He was a key part of Golden State's run to the Western Conference Semifinals and pushing the San Antonio Spurs to six games.
For his career Jack has played the reserve role in 359 of the 611 games he has played. The only year he was a full-time starter was in the 2006-07 season for the Portland Trailblazers and the only other time he started more than 50 games was in 2008-09 when he started 52.
The Cavaliers will look to slot Jack into the same role and hope that he helps stabilize a second unit that has not had a solid point guard since Ramon Sessions was traded to the Lakers. They will look to him to do similar things as Kyrie Irving does with the starters, as well as possibly play shooting guard at times.
With the injury history of Irving early in his career, this could be the best signing of the offseason for Cleveland. If Irving misses any significant time, Jack should have no issue stepping in and taking over the offense.
If nothing else, these two signings add depth to a team that is all of a sudden looking much deeper in certain areas than they did a year ago. With the signing of Bynum, the Cavaliers now have one of, if not the, deepest front lines in the NBA, assuming players stay healthy. Clark is a part of that and his ability to play multiple positions and create mismatches helps the team even more. Jack provides a veteran presence at the guard position coming off the bench and is fully capable of moving into the starting lineup if need be.
There is no doubt that Andrew Bynum is the big name and will hopefully be a great signing for Cleveland, but if this team makes the playoffs and attempts to make a run, they will require the depth that the signings of Clark and Jack provide.
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