Philadelphia 76ers: Gary Clark is a deceptively good two-way contract get

When news broke that the Philadelphia 76ers were waiving two-way contract guard Mason Jones, it came as a bit of a surprise.

Now granted, it’s not like Jones was lighting the world on fire, or really playing all that much at all for the Sixers, as he’d only appeared in six games (27 total minutes) between March 26th and May 6th, but still, why release him on the eve of the playoffs when the team would surely be switching into rest mode? Did Daryl Morey and company somehow have a better option up their collective sleeve than Isaiah Joe‘s former Arkansas State teammate?

As it turns out, yes, yes he did, and his name is Gary Clark.

But who, you may ask, is Gary Clark, and why are you reading an article about why he very well may be a “deceptively good get”? Let’s take a look at Clark’s path to the Philadelphia 76ers and try to direct where he fits in with the team both now and potentially moving forward.

The Philadelphia 76ers finally found themselves a viable young forward.

Per Wikipedia, “Gary Clark (born February 15, 1984) is an American musician from Austin, Texas. He is best known for his fusion of blues, rock, and soul music with elements of hip hop.”

… oops, that’s Gary Clark Jr., of “Bright Lights” fame, and no, before you ask, he isn’t related to the Philadelphia 76ers’ newest player.

Gary Clark I, as I will never refer to him again, was born in Smithfield, North Carolina in 1996 and parlayed a successful stint at Clayton HS into a scholarship at Cincinnati, where he played from 2014-18. Despite being named the American Athletic Conference Player of the Year during his senior season, Clark went undrafted in 2018 and initially signed on with Daryl Morey’s Houston Rockets on a two-way contract shortly thereafter.

From there, Clark appeared in 69 games for the Rockets before being waived in January of 2020 to free up a roster spot heading into that season’s trade deadline. But hey, things worked out pretty well for Clark on that one, as he made his way over to the Eastern Conference on a 10-day contract with the Orlando Magic that eventually blossomed into yet another full-time, multi-year deal.

Had the Magic stood pat at the 2021 NBA Trade Deadline, Clark would likely still be a member of Steve Clifford‘s rotation and could be gearing up for an early summer vacation to prep up for his fourth NBA season. Instead, he was traded to the Denver Nuggets alongside Aaron Gordon, where he would appear in two games before being waived on April 8th.

That date is key, April 8th. Why? Well, because Clarke was waived before the April 9th deadline, he will be technically eligible to play in the postseason if need be, which is a deceptively huge deal, considering he plays a position the Sixers aren’t particularly deep at.

You see, Clark is a 6-foot-6, 225-pound modern-day power forward who is a capable defender both on the wings and in the paint. He can switch, play ISO, or even deploy comfortably in the 2-3 zone look that has literally won a few games for Doc Rivers and company this season.

Is he a perfect player? No. Clark is just an okay 3 point shooter and looks a whole lot more like Matisse Thybulle than Tobias Harris physically. Factor in his age, 26, and you’ve got a player who isn’t really a “prospect” by traditional NBA standards but still presents some intriguing upside for a team who has been forced to rely far too heavily on Mike Scott than they probably would have liked.

While Clark isn’t going to make anyone forget about “BBall” Paul Reed anytime soon – really, whoever could? – Clark is notably older, has 135 games of NBA experience, and even has 148 minutes of playoff basketball under his relatively green belt.

For a coach like Rivers, who seemingly values seniority over pure talent when things are close, that might be enough to get Clark a little run in a first-round matchup if he needs someone to soak up a few reserve minutes in the frontcourt.

These next 3-4 games, depending on when Clark joins the team, could serve as an on-the-fly audition for a long-time Morey guy looking for a new, long-term home.

Now granted, does it make a whole lot of sense for the 76ers to play a forward like Clark, Scott, or even Paul in the playoffs when Rivers has already flirted with the idea of an 11-12 man rotation? No. The Sixers have far more reserve talent in their backcourt than the front, but if, knock on wood, if a player like Harris or Ben Simmons suffers an injury or is limited for whatever reason? While the Sixers can (probably) weather some of that with their newfound four guards plus a big look, they’d surely have to get someone of size on the court, especially against a team like the Heat who can present bigger looks if need be.

Clark provides some added insurance in case that happens.

For the price of a… well of nothing but Mason Jones’ NBA dreams, the Philadelphia 76ers have bolstered their frontcourt depth, procured a veteran forward with playoff experience, and landed a player of interest for a multi-game tryout for the 2021-22 season. If it works out, great, but either way, you’re going to know the name Gary Clark by the end of the night, assuming he’s available for the team’s 8pm EST bout against the Indiana Pacers.