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Earl Clark Working Hard in the D-League for Another NBA Opportunity

The Rio Grande Valley Vipers are 3-0 to start the season, and while they have a balanced attack on offense, it has been Earl Clark's solid play that has sparked their early success.

David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

If you ask Earl Clark, he'd likely tell you that he did not expect to be playing in the NBA's D-League this season. The Memphis Grizzlies signed Clark back in September and he attended their training camp and played four games in the NBA preseason with them as well. His numbers weren't gaudy by any means but 5.3 points and 2.8 rebounds per game is respectable given that he only played 12.5 minutes a game in those contests.

Ultimately, the Grizzlies ended up waiving Clark and then he was -- somewhat surprisingly -- claimed off waivers by the Houston Rockets, which led to their D-League affiliate the RGV Vipers trading for his D-League rights as well.

Fast forward to today and Clark is the leader of an undefeated team and he's been quite impressive through the first three games of the season. Clark is averaging 28.7 points and 7.3 rebounds with shooting splits of .444/.385/.857. The added wrinkle? He's shooting 8.7 threes per game so far, and while that is certainly a result of RGV's offensive scheme, he's been quite successful making 3.3 per game from deep. Last night, he hit a huge three that allowed their game versus the Bakersfield Jam to go to overtime and ultimately the Vipers came out on top 151-148.

While the added 3-point threat is valuable, Clark has still been very aggressive inside the arc as well. He's averaging 11.3 points in the paint this season and is getting to the line 4.7 times a night as well.

Clark's ultimate goal is of course to latch on with an NBA team where he surely has the talent to contribute. He's only 26-years-old and he has 251 games on NBA experience to draw from. The 3-point threat definitely adds value for Clark for an NBA team, because the stretch four is the new trend and Clark can somewhat fit that mold. I say somewhat, because while Clark is 6'10 he's not a power forward as much as he is a lanky small forward.

Clearly, the Houston Rockets have some vested interest in Clark as they claimed him off waivers and then made sure that he was playing for their D-League affiliate this season, and honestly they could use him. The Rockets currently sit at 9-2 to start the NBA season, however they do have one glaring weakness and it's their bench production. Per Hoopsstats, the Houston bench is last in the NBA at 23.5 points produced per game. Houston has changed their offensive scheme in recent seasons with the 3-pointer being heavily relied upon and now that Clark has added that nuance to his game, he should be in serious contention for a call-up to assist this bench.

Where else might he be a good fit? The second worst bench in terms of production this season can be found in Cleveland as they score 23.9 points per night. LeBron James made recent comments regarding his minutes and while they have capable veterans on their bench (Mike Miller and Shawn Marion) maybe in influx of younger talent would assist them.

No matter where he ends up one thing has become clear -- Earl Clark is an NBA talent and he's hungry to get back to the pinnacle of professional basketball, and when he gets there he aims to stick around.