Top Three Landing Spots For Brandon Clarke
Brandon Clarke is one of the top defensive prospects to enter the draft in recent memory. He is an elite on-ball defender with very high-level lateral quickness that allows him to stay in front of his man and be an effective perimeter defender as a big. He is a superb shot blocker; his 11.4 BLK% was good enough for 11th in the nation this season. Clarke is talented enough as a defender to be a lock for the Lottery, but needs to develop his offensive repertoire to be considered a truly elite NBA prospect.
Most of his offense comes from lobs and dunks, and he is great at getting hustle points and in the short roll, but his ability to improve his jump shot is the number one question scouts have about Clarke. Clarke has totally rebuilt his jump shot since getting to Gonzaga, going from a grotesque shot-put to a pretty, smooth release with a hitch that with time could become an average outside jumper.
Three teams stand out as ideal destinations for Clarke as he enters the NBA:
1. Dallas Mavericks
The Mavericks are likely a pipe-dream as they owe their first round pick to the Hawks as part of their deal to acquire Luka Doncic in last year’s draft, but the fit is so perfect they had to be included. Clarke would slot right next to Porzingis next season in the Mavericks frontcourt, as he is skilled enough defensively to cover for the mistakes of his teammates -- including the aforementioned Doncic.
While Clarke does not possess the most diverse offensive repertoire, he comes into the league as a very good rim runner and pick-and-roll diver. Doncic has always done well with a solid P&R dive man: in Madrid he had Gustavo Ayon and in Dallas he has had great partnerships with Dwight Powell and DeAndre Jordan.
Dallas has enough players who need the ball to be successful, which works great for Clarke, who, especially as a rookie, will struggle to find his own shot. He’ll be content to make his mark on the defensive end of the court, where he has excellent foot speed, and is a fantastic man, and help, defender. While he doesn’t have the size of an Anthony Davis or the hand size/speed of a Kawhi Leonard, he is a player who can legitimately lock down 1-5. Clarke will quickly show you why he is such a monster on the defensive end, and can impact the game with hustle and rebounding without having any offensive plays run for him.
2. Minnesota Timberwolves
As with Dallas, Minnesota won’t need to rely on Clarke for offense in the frontcourt, as he would start right away next to Karl Anthony-Towns, arguably the best offensive center in the NBA today. Clarke’s uncanny defensive help abilities will allow him to cover up for KAT’s shortcomings and basically allow him to quarterback the Wolves defense. Clarke is fast enough to play in a switching system that would force him to defend guards on the perimeter; he also has enough strength and athleticism to defend centers in the paint. His bounce is vey key in the low post as he isn’t the tallest PF, at just 6’8, with a normal 6’8”wingspan. Instead, Clarke recorded the highest vertical leap at the NBA Combine among all forwards with a 40.5” vertical, and uses his verticality very effectively
3. Phoenix Suns
Despite drafting in the lottery this entire decade, Phoenix somehow lacks a single legitimate power forward on their entire roster. They cobbled together a rotation of Dragen Bender, Josh Jackson, Quincy Acy, and Emanuel Terry last year; needless to say they are in desperate need of an NBA-caliber 4. Clarke fills a gaping roster hole.
The Suns had the second worst defensive rating in the NBA this year at 114.2, only ahead of the Cavaliers’ historically terrible 116.7. The Suns just need good defenders, and putting Clarke next to Deandre Ayton would make the Suns a much more effective team defensively. Ayton reasonably struggled on defense this year as a 20-year-old rookie, and it would do him a world of good to have an elite help defender playing alongside him, freeing him to expend more energy on offense and have Clarke administer the defense.
I imagine a Clarke/Ayton frontcourt to be similar to Minnesota’s Towns/Taj Gibson frontcourt -- or how Towns and Clarke would hypothetically fit together. Gibson anchored the defense and allowed Towns to check the lesser of the two opposing offensive threats, and roam around on defense clogging passing lanes. While Clarke doesn’t have the height that Gibson does, his elite athleticism and bounce allow him to be an extremely solid rim defender and rebounder.
While Ayton has shown a bit of promise on the defensive end, Devin Booker and Kelly Oubre Jr. are both significant parts of the Suns’ rotation with little focus or effort on the defensive end. Clarke would 180 the league’s second worst defense, and hopefully allow the Suns to change the perception of their team. While he may not have the most potential star power, Clarke is an extremely solid basketball player who will do his job and set the tone from day one.