Name: Brandon Clarke
Height (w/ shoes): 6’8.25″
Weight: 215 pounds
Position: Power Forward/Center
STATISTICS (37 games)
16.9 points (68.7/26.7/69.4), 8.6 rebounds, and 3.2 blocks.
When it comes to Brandon Clarke — arguably Gonzaga’s best player in their 2019 Elite Eight run — his height, weight, and wingspan won’t impress anybody. He’s the typical power forward’s size with a below average wingspan.
However, what those numbers don’t show is Clarke’s incredible athleticism, great for his size court vision, and his awareness and timing. Clarke, while short for a big man, can jump with anyone and has been known to easily out-rebound his seven-foot counterparts in college. Clarke’s inside game is remarkable, making him the ideal small-ball center in today’s NBA. Shooting 68 percent from the field on 10 shots a game is hardly an easy task, but Clarke made it look like child’s play, getting to the rim with absolute ease.
On defense, Clarke is reminiscent of a young Shawn Marion. For those who forgot, Marion was top-10 in steals in seven different seasons while also spending seven years in the top-20 in defensive win shares, defensive box plus-minus, and defensive rating. Clarke is obviously a few years off from that, but the potential is undoubtedly there.
Clarke is perhaps one of the most NBA-ready players in the 2019 NBA Draft and no matter how good his fit is, he is a gritty enough player to make it work.
Clarke does have a few glaring weaknesses, but perhaps the most obvious one is his age. On the first day of the 2019-20 NBA season, Clarke will already be 23 years old. And while this wouldn’t be a huge concern 10 or 20 years ago, it comes with major red flags today.
Clarke’s game is not perfect. He shot under 30% from the three-point line for his college career and struggles mightily as a playmaker. While Clarke does have good vision, it’s largely used on attacking his own lanes and grabbing rebounds, hardly ever to set his teammates up. He averaged 1.9 assists at Gonzaga and with the amount of shooters on that team and the amount of attention he got, assists should not have been an issue.
Because of these imperfections in major parts of his game and major parts of today’s NBA game, Clarke’s age becomes an even larger issue. The average NBA player enters their prime at 26-years-old, meaning Clarke will supposedly enter his prime in his fourth NBA season. For reference, Brandon Ingram is about to enter his fourth NBA season at just 22-years-old.
Clarke is a dedicated player who will work extremely hard to make sure he can be a contributor on the court, but one has to wonder if he’ll have enough time to fix these flaws in his game — if he ever even does.
FIT WITH LAKERS
The main needs for the Lakers are for a rim-protecting big man and perimeter shooting. Clarke fits the former far better than the latter. However, his struggles to hit threes with any consistency could by itself be enough to turn the Lakers away from him.
Clarke is an extremely talented player and had the Lakers had their expected selection at No. 11, there is no doubt that he would’ve been one of the top players considered. However, with the jump to No. 4, it becomes very difficult to justify taking a player who’s already dangerously close to his ceiling.
Clarke could absolutely make an immediate impact on the Lakers as a small-ball center and a rotation power forward with Kyle Kuzma and LeBron James but at the end of the day, using a top-four pick on Clarke would almost certainly backfire.