Draft Profile: Brandon Clarke Looking To Make Immediate Impact In The NBA
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The Hawks hold the rights to the #8, #10, #35, #41 and #44 picks in the upcoming June 20 NBA Draft. At Hawks.com, we'll be talking to some of the writers and bloggers who watched some of this year's key prospects most closely.
What does Brandon Clarke do well?
Clarke is an elite athlete, and he uses that athleticism most effectively when protecting the rim on the defensive end. The numbers he posted at the NBA Combine in terms of his vertical jump and agility drills were not surprising to anyone who watched him play in college, and that explosiveness allows him to cover a lot of ground around the paint to contest shots and challenge any player at the rim despite not having great length. He's also one of the best I've seen at making second and third jumps in quick sequence. What makes him an elite rim protector, however, is that he's able to pair his prodigious physical talents with excellent timing and an uncanny feel for blocking shots. When you put those traits in a single player, you get someone who led Division I in blocks last season while setting a new single season blocks record at Gonzaga. Here's a fun stat: he had as many blocks (117) as he did missed field goals during his entire junior campaign.
How does his game translate to the NBA?
Clarke will be able to make an immediate impact at the defensive end for all the reasons stated above. Not only is he an elite shot blocker, but he's very good at defending the pick and roll and taking away angles when hedging or helping. He also proved on multiple occasions that he has the chops to defend smaller players on the perimeter in isolation. His next coaching staff will appreciate the versatility in defensive coverages that he affords, and they'll be able to keep him on the floor because he consistently makes smart basketball plays within the team structure while playing with maximum effort. He's a very capable scorer in and around the paint, featuring good touch on floaters, jump hooks, and up-and-unders. He's also an absolute menace in the pick and roll on the offensive end, and will provide a lot of highlights finishing lobs.
What can he do to improve?
His shooting has come a long way from where it was prior to transferring to Gonzaga, but it remains the area in his game that requires more development. He successfully overhauled his shooting mechanics during his redshirt year after transferring from San Jose State, and now has a much better foundation moving forward. He was comfortable taking open jumpers last season, but he simply needs more reps with his new mechanics in order for his shot to become more reliable. He's not going to be invited to the three-point competition during All-Star weekend, but he's capable of becoming a shooter that opposing defenses at least have to respect.
What style of play suits his game best?
He's really good in the pick and roll and guards will love playing with him. He also has a good understanding of how to play off another big man in the post in the half court, while his athleticism makes him adept in the open floor. I think he would do really well if paired with a bigger center in the interior so he could be spared from having to play a lot as a 5. He does not require a lot of plays to be called for him in order to make an offensive impact. He'll get a handful of greasy buckets around the paint on athleticism and hustle alone. At the other end of the floor, he'll be able to play in any defensive scheme and make a positive impact.
To which current or past NBA player would you compare him?
Tyson Chandler is the first name that comes to mind—the version of him that won an NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award in 2012 and made several all NBA-Defensive teams during the latter stages of his career. While they have different physical profiles, the strengths and weaknesses of their respective games are somewhat comparable. After getting drafted at No. 2 overall, it took Chandler a few years and a few teams to figure things out before he turned into a consistent impact player as a defensive anchor and pick and roll finisher. Clarke can fill that role now as he's further along his development curve than Chandler was when he entered the league, but Clarke is already more comfortable with the ball on offense and continues to trend upwards.