Brandon Clarke: Blocker of shots, Destroyer of rims
6’8.25”, 207-pounds, 6’8.25” wingspan, 40.5” max vertical, turns 23 in September, ranked 7th by Hamilton:
Brandon Clarke goes hard all the time and you can see it manifest in some of the stats. In his lone season at Gonzaga, he averaged over three offensive rebounds, 1.2 steals, 3.2 blocks. The play he made when raced 70 feet to get tip dunk over Florida State’s Terrence Mann in the Sweet 16 was an amazing display of effort and athletic ability. Most players lack the athleticism, desire, or both to do things like that. He finished that game with 15 points, 12 rebounds, and 5 blocks. Florida State as per usual had had the size and athletes of an NBA team.
To watch Clarke outrun, out jump, and just flat out play harder than FSU’s NBA-caliber athletes was eye-opening.
Players like Clarke provide so much for teams. You’re less likely to be flat when you’ve got a guy running and jumping nonstop. Droughts are a little less dry because he’ll grab offensive rebounds and run hard in transition for easy layups or get create easy buckets by forcing turnovers. Teams can do so many different things on defense when they have a player who can guard 4 or 5 positions. There are many ways to make the game easier for teammates: Take for instance running the floor hard in transition. An offensive player running hard toward the rim drags transition a defender with him. The defender can no longer closeout on the wing and guys filling the lane can spot up for open 3s. Either that or Clarke gets a dunk. Or consider the 3.2 blocks per game this past season; how many of those were covering up for teammate errors or helping a beaten teammate?
There’s a demand this for this type of play because it contributes a lot to winning and that’s good for Clarke. He’s not a potential lottery pick for his offensive prowess for sure. His shot has been redeveloped which lets you know just how bad the mechanics were before. He shot 69% from the line which isn’t too bad given how the shot actually looks. If he is willing to take a few shots to keep defenses more honest, it will be a big deal for his ceiling and go a long way in diversifying his offensive contributions.
To reach his maximum impact, he will have to harness his ability more effectively in the NBA – even on the defensive end. At times he goes for weakside blocks when he’d be better off staying home. This puts himself and others out of position. Maturity and understanding of NBA basketball should help with those issues. When a player is as explosive as this you find ways to make it work with other personnel whose strengths minimize his weaknesses and whose own weaknesses can be minimized by playing alongside a Brandon Clarke. His meal ticket is on the defensive end and he’s fortunate to have that in his favor because the offensive side of the ball has a long way to go. I’m skeptical the offense ever comes around, but it may not need to. The versatility, work ethic, and intensity will always be there.
I may look back and find that I ranked Clarke too high on my board, but he has an undeniability about his play that would make me pause before passing on him in the 5-10 range of this draft.