Eyes on Clinkscales

Updated: December 28, 2009

To borrow and slightly edit a phrase of wordsmith Walt Frazier, Cliff Clinkscales may not be swishing a whole lot, but he sure is dishing.

The Erie BayHawks blew a 30-point lead and dropped to 0-5 at home with yesterday’s overtime loss to Iowa, but anyone with the time on Tuesday night is going to want to go ahead and tune in to Jam-BayHawks, if only to see if the slender point guard continues an incredible run of distribution.

In the three games he played over the last week, Clinkscales dished out a total of 35 assists while turning the ball over four times, including a 16-assist, two-turnover game on Saturday. Small sample size, for sure, but even so, wow.

Clinkscales has done a fine job over the last few games getting the ball up the floor in transition and finding his teammates for good looks from mid-range in the halfcourt. While I didn’t like the level of reliance on the deep two-point jumper that Erie adopted in the second half of Saturday night’s loss to Iowa, most of those shots came off decent-or-better looks at the bucket. Clinkscales gets some credit for that, though it would be nice to see him penetrate and kick and look to feed the post more as well.

(Of course, it never hurts to have a healthy reminder of the smallness of sample size. After I tweeted about Clinkscales’ recent performance in the wee hours of this morning, RU‘s Scott Schroeder arrived with 75 characters of cold water: “Oh, Steve. Don’t buy into the hype. He can’t even dribble with his head up!”)

After failing to make Rio Grande Valley’s team in training camp, the point guard signed with Erie in mid-December and has played five games since, averaging 9.4 assists and 2.6 turnovers per game. While the passing has been solid, as referenced earlier in re: dishing not swishing, Clinkscales needs to make himself more of a scoring threat in order to take his play up a notch. Consider how BlogTalkBayHawk‘s Matt Hubert framed Clinkscales’ performance in the second contest of the 35:4 trio:

How do you follow up an 11-assist, 1 turnover game? Cliff Clinkscales followed it with a 11 assists in the first half against the Energy. He finished the game with 16 assists and just 2 turnovers. Surprisingly he also went 7-13 from the field. I say surprising because he has arguably the ugliest jumper on the team. What’s important is that he doesn’t force many jumpshots, and he finds other ways to score.

The numbers bear out Matt’s assessment as well. Clinkscales has never been a threat from outside the arc, shooting just 21.4 percent from there as a D-League rookie last year and knocking down 27.3 percent of his trey attempts in college. In four years at DePaul, Clinkscales did not total 100 three-point attempts. Especially considering his lack of efficacy from deep, his two-point field-goal percentage hasn’t been much to write home about either as Clinkscales has shot less than 47 percent inside the arc as a D-Leaguer. That said, as Matt points out, he avoids taking bad shots from mid-range and beyond, and he has shown himself capable of using his quickness to get to the rim for an easy deuce on occasion.

While Clinkscales has plenty to address in his game, his recent stat-stuffing remains eye-popping. Now, if only his team could get on the board at home. Perhaps 2-11 Bakersfield will help the cause this week.


  1. Matt Hubert

    December 28, 2009 at 12:47 pm

    I agree with most of the points here. The sample size is small, but Clinkscales’ output has been a bright light amid a dark season so far for the BayHawks.

    Even if his assist-to-turnover ratio dips a bit (and you would think it has to at some point), that’s not going to be the issue for him. It’s the jumpshot that will prevent him from being anything more than a quality D-Leaguer right now.

    I’d expect teams to start sagging off him and daring him to shoot more from the outside. His mechanics and release are flawed and the results aren’t pretty either. I don’t know if it’s too late in his basketball development to tweak his shooting stroke, but it might be a worthwhile investment for he or the BayHawks or an NBA club in need of a point guard to find him a shooting coach.

    Because I don’t care who you’re playing against, 35 assists to 4 turnovers is impressive. You have to credit him for making the most of his talents. But as you said, those stats have yet to translate into wins. Here’s hoping the individual production continues while the win total picks up.

  2. Ridiculous Scott

    December 28, 2009 at 2:19 pm

    Just in case Cliff reads this, I wanted to apologize to him in advance. His not-very-good-at-anything-other-than-assisting-and-not-turning-the-ball-overness could possibly be outshadowed by having a great D-League name.

    • Matt Hubert

      December 29, 2009 at 3:56 pm

      …unfortunately it wasn’t a great enough game for the FutureCast announcer to learn it prior to the game the other night, however. As I tweeted previously, he went with everything from Clink-SALES (just forgetting the C in Scales) to the more egregiously mispronunciation of Clinks-DALE (where’d they get the D?)

  3. Steve

    December 30, 2009 at 10:07 am

    When Cliff left Erie for Rio Grande last season, he was leading the D-league in assist to turnover ratio. So, this season isn’t an aberation.

    • Steve Weinman

      December 30, 2009 at 1:40 pm

      Thanks for the reminder, Steve. While his taking care of the ball in general may be no aberration, I think you’d agree that the 39:4 (nearly 10-to-1) takes that to a bit of an extreme over a small sample size.


      • Steve

        December 30, 2009 at 3:21 pm

        You’re right. I was speaking in general terms. Enjoy the blog by the way.

        • Steve Weinman

          December 30, 2009 at 3:47 pm

          Glad to hear that, Steve. Looking forward to seeing you more around site.


  4. deon jones

    December 30, 2009 at 7:46 pm

    Clinkscales was suffering from a deep thigh bruise. That prohibited his ventures into the lane and running at full speed. But Jackson played a brillant game, knowing he had to be more agressive, due the punishment of Donnell Taylor.

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