A Deep Dive Into Brandon Clarke

Top 5 fits in the 2019 NBA Draft

by Brandon- @AZSportsZone

In all my time evaluating NBA Draft prospects I have never seen a larger divide among the general consensus on an individual prospect than there currently is on Brandon Clarke. He is what traditional scouts or executives in the league generally tend to avoid until the late 1st round, as he’s already 22 years old and has a relatively short wingspan along with other uninspiring physical measurements.

Along with those concerns he doesn’t possess a cemented offensive identity with his lack of a jumper at the moment. His value differs significantly from mock draft to mock draft, as I’ve seen him penciled in anywhere from top five to the late first round. Despite all that, he is one of my favorite prospects in this entire draft, and after reading this he should be one of yours too.

What he does bring to the table: he is extremely good at basketball right now despite his deficiencies and question marks. His touch around the rim is elite, and he’s proven to be a hard worker as he completely overhauled the mechanics on his jumper from his stint at San Jose State. He still has plenty of work to do with his shot (especially the release point), but I believe at the very least he will be able to hit from the mid-range and continue to be one of the top percentile finishers around the rim with his remarkable touch and finishing ability.

If he ever starts knocking 3’s down at a reasonable rate it’s quite clear to me that he’d be a top 5 prospect from this class when we look back five years from now. Betting on skills to develop is a risky business, so let’s focus on the prospect he is right now without the three-point shot.

Defensive role: His off-ball instincts along with his precise timing allow for him to almost play like a free safety making impact play after impact play. He creates events at a high-level and offers rim protection in a variety of ways, whether it’s in transition, rotating from the weak side, at the point of attack or from recovery.

Offensive role: He excels as a rim runner in transition and a vertical floor spacer in the half-court, as he can play off the high post or on the weak-side baseline looking for cracks in the defense. He is a top-level decision maker that makes the right plays more often than not with the ball in his hands.

Let’s start with his physical measurements, then dive into his agility tests that he completed during the combine. The 22-year-old Gonzaga product stands at 6’8.25” while weighing in at 207 pounds with 5.0 percent body fat. His wingspan matched his height exactly at 6’8.25” which was not encouraging for his stock, but personally I believe wingspan isn’t important unless the instincts and basketball IQ aren’t there, and with Clarke he certainly has both of those attributes. Along with those instincts and high basketball IQ he is one of the best athletes in this draft and has impeccable timing when it comes to shot blocking and weak-side rotations. His motor, high basketball IQ, general feel for the game and otherworldly athleticism lead me to believe he has more upside than your typical 22-year-old prospect.

His vertical leap was an incredible 40.5 inches, which was the 3rd highest in the entire event and highest for his position. He is an absolute freak athlete which he’s already shown at the combine, as he tested at an elite level in his drills to make up for some of his uninspiring measurements. He screams “switchable” on the perimeter, which in today’s NBA is an extremely valuable asset for any frontcourt player.

Here’s how he compared to former number one pick overall John Wall who was, you know… a freakishly athletic point guard.

John Wall, 2010: 10.84 Lane - 30.0 standing vert - 39.0 max vert

B. Clarke, 2019: 10.61 Lane - 34.0 standing vert - 40.0 max vert

(Via Twitter) https://twitter.com/Cosmis/status/1129127379165732864

Look at how his statistics measured up against Zion Williamson’s last season. I understand he’s three years older and plays in a weaker conference, but it’s incredible to see how historically good these two were last year.

In their match-up head to head in Maui back in November they each recorded:

Zion- 22 points, 4 blocks, 10 rebounds, 2 assists on 8-17 shooting, 0-1 from three and 6-6 from the line.

Clarke- 17 points, 6 blocks, 5 rebounds, 1 assist on 7-10 shooting, 1-1 from three and 2-5 from the line.

Where Does Clarke Fit?

Here are my 5 favorite fits for Brandon Clarke at the next level:

Minnesota Timberwolves:

This is the fit the Timberwolves should be praying for. I cannot think of a more perfect frontcourt
partner for Karl-Anthony Towns than Brandon Clarke. Towns has the ideal skill-set offensively that will take pressure off Clarke and allow him to roam in the high post or baseline, while Clarke offers the weak side rim protection and defensive nastiness you need to make up for KAT’s weaknesses in those areas at times.

Minnesota picks 11th in the draft and with how unpredictable draft night is, if a team that wanted him trades out or a team picking before Minnesota has someone unexpectedly drop to them Clarke could easily fall to 11 where he’d not only be a match made in heaven next to Towns, but he’d be a steal in general. Ultimately, I think Clarke is gone by 11, but in the event he is not I would strongly advise Minnesota to pick him and not look back.

Memphis Grizzlies:

Just to be clear, this won’t happen barring Memphis trading back or trading for another lottery pick. Morant seems to be a lock for them at number 2, but this is a fit that would’ve been potentially devastating on both ends of the court. Adding Clarke next to Jaren Jackson Jr. would’ve created one of the most complete, versatile frontcourts in recent memory. Jackson could space the floor with his three-point shooting ability while Clarke would lurk on the high-post giving Memphis optimal floor spacing. Defensively they would be a nightmare in today’s modern NBA with their switchability on the perimeter and elite-level rim protection. They would absolutely wreak havoc and bring back that defense-first “grit and grind” mentality to Memphis.

One avenue Memphis can explore to make this possible would be if they traded Mike Conley for another lottery pick and he winds up being available there. Then all the sudden they could trot out a core featuring Jaren Jackson Jr., Brandon Clarke and Ja Morant which would be one of the most exciting young trios in the entire NBA.

Phoenix Suns:

Phoenix holds the 6th pick in the draft, and it would not shock me at all if they took Clarke with their desire to compete now and their looming gap at the power forward position. Everyone talks about how the Suns need a point guard, but their need for a power forward is just as, if not more urgent for the team to fill this off-season given they literally do not have a single power forward under contract entering next season while they have Tyler Johsnon, De’Anthony Melton and Elie Okobo at point guard. Along with that, there are far more free agent point options than there are at power forward this summer. Clarke is a Phoenix native and grew up a Suns fan, which has led to many fans falling further in love with him as a prospect.

“I’ve been a Suns fan forever. It would be cool to be able to go back home. Maybe I can get a workout planned with them. If not, it’s not a huge deal, but I’d definitely like to get a workout with them and get a chance to play with them.” (via Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic). Full article can be found on azcentral.

His ability to mask Ayton’s weaknesses defensively would be a major boost, as Ayton is solid on-ball, but his help-side defense and rim protection were issues his rookie year, so adding someone like Clarke that can protect the rim at an elite rate and excels in team-defense and rotating would bring some much needed stability to the defense. Surrounding Booker and Ayton with defenders like Mikal Bridges, De’Anthony Melton and Brandon Clarke is an ideal start towards building a defensive identity.

Atlanta Hawks:

The Hawks have the 8th and 10th picks in this year’s draft and if Clarke is available when they are up to pick, he could be a perfect fit next to John Collins down low with Collins’ improved shooting ability from deep last season (though he still has a ways to go on that department). Along with that, having guys like Young and Huerter spacing the floor could give Clarke plenty of room to operate, floating around the high post and finding seams in the defense.

The Young/Collins combo have had some comparisons to a young Nash/Amare duo, and while they still have a long way to go to get there, adding a guy like Clarke could fill in as the Shawn Marion type role. I don’t think they are all that similar types of players except for the freakish second jumps they each possess, but in terms of doing the dirty work and playing exceptional defense he’d fit in nicely there as a super-role player.

Boston Celtics:

Boston picks down at 14 to conclude the lottery and if Clarke is still on the board, I believe Danny Ainge snatches him up before the commissioner is done reading the name of the 13th pick. I personally don’t see him falling this low, but if he does I envision him absolutely thriving next to Al Horford who can space the floor and pass well, which would be a dangerous combination to pair with Clarke, given his ability to find openings in the defense through back-doors or high post drop downs. Clarke’s high-level IQ in Brad Stevens system would be a delight to watch. Boston holds the 14th, 20th, and 22nd picks in this draft so if they were to fall in love with him, they could always use their picks to move up and take him.

Boston’s roster is currently in limbo as we await the Kyrie Irving situation and if they are invested in pursuing Anthony Davis, but I believe Clarke fits with them no matter what their intentions are, as he would help with a rebuild while also offering as much “win-now” value as a rookie can in this class outside of Zion.

I believe he will be an instant contributor wherever he goes right off the bat.

Follow Brandon Clarke on Twitter

Follow Brandon- @AZSportsZone
Arizona Sports Zone

LJs 2019 NBA Draft Guide

by Leader Johnson (follow L.J. on Twitter)

Top 30 Most NBA ready 2019 draft prospects

  1. Ja Morant/PG/Murray State
  2. Zion Williamson/PF/Duke
  3. Camron Reddish/SF/Duke
  4. RJ Barrett/SF/Duke
  5. Jarrett Culver/SG/Texas Tech
  6. DeAndre Hunter/SF/Virginia
  7. Grant Williams/PF/Tennessee
  8. Rui Hachimura/PF/Gonzaga
  9. Nassir Little/SF/North Carolina
  10. Bol Bol/C/Oregon
  11. Darius Garland/PG/Vanderbilt
  12. Kevin Porter Jr./SG/USC
  13. Brandon Clarke/PF/Gonzaga
  14. Phil Booth/CG/Villanova
  15. Daniel Gafford/PF/Arkansas
  16. Eric Paschall/PF/Villanova
  17. Ethan Happ/PF/Wisconsin
  18. Paul Washington Jr./PF/Kentucky
  19. Nickeil Alexander-Walker/CG/Virginia Tech
  20. Cam Johnson/SF/North Carolina
  21. Bruno Fernando/C/Maryland
  22. Jalen Lecque/PG/NC State
  23. Naz Reid/PF/LSU
  24. Jaxson Hayes/C/Texas
  25. Reggie Perry/SF/Mississippi State
  26. Carsen Edwards/PG/Purdue
  27. Coby White/PG/North Carolina
  28. Keldon Johnson/Kentucky
  29. Dedric Lawson/PF/Kansas
  30. Romeo Langford/SG/Indiana

Top 5 point guards

  1. Ja Morant/Murray State
  2. Darius Garland/Vanderbilt
  3. Nickeil Alexander-Walker/Virginia Tech
  4. Jalen Lecque/NC State
  5. Carsen Edwards/Purdue

Top 5 shooting guards

  1. Jarrett Culver/Texas Tech
  2. Coby White/North Carolina
  3. Kevin Porter Jr./USC
  4. Romeo Langford/Indiana
  5. Keldon Johnson/Kentucky

Top 5 small forwards

  1. Cam Reddish/Duke
  2. RJ Barrett/Duke
  3. Nassir Little/North Carolina
  4. DeAndre Hunter/Virginia
  5. Cam Johnson/North Carolina

Top 5 power forwards

  1. Zion Williamson/Duke
  2. Rui Hachimura/Gonzaga
  3. PJ Washington/Kentucky
  4. Sekou Doumbouya/France
  5. Brandon Clarke/Gonzaga

Top 5 Centers

  1. Bol Bol/Oregon
  2. Charles Bassey/Western Kentucky
  3. Jaxson Hayes/Texas
  4. Bruno Fernando/Maryland
  5. Daniel Gafford/Arkansas

Top 10 sleepers

  1. Bol Bol/Oregon – Bol Bol is as low as 18 in some mock drafts. He was the second most impactful and physically imposing freshman last season next to Zion Williamson. Teams are downplaying him because he got injured. He will have a lot of GMs smacking themselves in the future.
  2. Nassir Little/North Carolina – The Tar Heel's inability to get him more chances to score is why you didn’t get to see his full arsenal. NBA scouts not being able to see enough of Little will keep him from being a top three prospect. It’s a possibility he can slip to the early 20s.
  3. Jalen Lecque/NC State – explosive and aggressive with an evolving basketball IQ. He can be patient and lead a team. He can be clutch and take over the game. Reminds me of a smarter Steve Francis. Lecque is a 5-star talent that many will overlook because he has not played a college game. But remember Mitchell Robinson and Anfernee Simons.
  4. Charles Bassey/Western Kentucky – Bassey had a better season than Jaxson Hayes and showed more of a complete offensive game than Bruno Fernando.
  5. Kevin Porter jr/USC – Considered a lottery pick and now has fallen to the early 20s in some mock drafts. He is one of the most extremely gifted talents in the draft.
  6. Grant Williams/Tennessee – Grant Williams is one of the most NBA ready players in this draft. "Upside, raw talent, high ceiling" are terms mentioned too much when rating players over him. Someone will get a warrior.
  7. Keldon Johnson/Kentucky – One of the best scorers in the draft. Coming into this past college season he was also considered a top 10 talent.
  8. Rui Hachimura/Gonzaga – Hachimura has been one of the best young basketball prospects for a while now. He was named college basketball center of the year and battled some of the best prospects in the country and won.
  9. Naz Reid – Reid is a lottery talent, a big with three point range. He has athleticism and power plus he has back to the basket moves. He plays like a more athletic Montrez Harrell or Kenneth Faried.
  10. Cam Reddish/Duke – Looking at this draft Reddish has the potential to be the most dangerous all-around player in this draft. He has Point skills. He has the smoothest and most dangerous long range jumper. He can score anywhere, anyhow, anyway. Duke saw Zion and RJ have most of the possessions then when Reddish got the ball he was never in his flow, basically rushing shots and not thinking like Reddish usually does on the court. Down the line Reddish will be one of the top three special players in this draft. Many people have had him as low as 11 but Reddish should realistically go no lower than fourth overall. Scouts are now starting to see how special he is and are thinking of him as high as five.
L.J.s 2019 Mock Draft is coming soon.

2021 NBA Mock Draft Update

Update 6/15/19
Major movement for Makur Maker after a strong spring. Maker is a big-bodied guard/center with an intriguing skill set. He fits the mold of modern big who can stretch the floor, pass the ball and he shows impressive open court ball handling ability and the ability to rip and run. Maker is up to no.4 overall in our 2021 mock and is in the conversation for no.1 overall.

Lok Wuk is a new comer to the mock, landing at no.30 overall. Wuk is far from a finished product but based on athleticism and upside alone he gets consideration as a potential first round pick.  Not saying he's the next Giannis but he shows the same type of flashes as Giannis showed as an 18 year old in Greece. Wuk is a blur in the open court, gliding past defenders with long strides, and exploding to the rim with ease. Keep an eye on him over the next year or two. Stay Wuk.

Update 5/28/19
Probably the hottest name right now is Cade Cunningham. The big point guard has elevated his stock to the point of being in the conversation for no.1 in his class. At this point we have him listed no.4 overall in our 2021 mock behind Jalen Green, Evan Mobley and Jalen Johnson.

Adam Miller is another riser (and another big point guard). AceWolf is a crafty ball handler who finds angles well when driving the ball and is a creative finisher in the lane. He's got the size to shoot over defenders and can really get buckets. He's moved up our list to no.22 in the 2021 mock.

Jaden Springer is currently ranked no.16 in the mock but after a great end to the HS season and a good showing this spring, he's looking like a potential lottery pick.

And of course we're all waiting for/anticipating the end of the one-and-done rule, which could mean the top prospects from the 2021 recruiting class could be in this draft as well. Better get to know the name Terrance Clarke!

Four Under-The-Radar NBA Draft Prospects

Grant Williams, Tyler Herro, Mattisse Thybulle, Dylan Windler

by Brandon- @AZSportsZone

The 2019 NBA Draft Lottery is approaching. While this draft may not be star-heavy or have a ton of big names that move the needle outside of a select few, there are some very interesting prospects that could become elite role players or valuable starters throughout the first round and even the early second round. Here’s a look at four prospects I’m personally higher on than the consensus that range from the late lottery to the early 2nd round.

1) Grant Williams- F, Tennessee
6’7”, 220 lbs., 20 years old

Williams is the youngest junior in the entire draft at just 20 years old on draft day, and he’s shown dramatic improvement year after year at Tennessee. He’s a hard-nosed bulldozer that may be undersized at the next level but possesses the strength to make up for it. He is one of the most underrated passers in this class, as his vision and skills with the ball are a bit under-looked by the casual fan. He isn’t the quickest guy, but he moves well enough and understands how to use angles to keep up with quicker players on defense.

He does need to improve his three-point shot, because at times he looks totally uncomfortable shooting from deep, but he has immaculate touch around the rim and has improved his free throw percentage each year at Tennessee, along with his points and assists per game numbers while getting more efficient each season.

Freshman year: 12.6 PPG, 1.1 APG, 66.3% FT
Sophomore year: 15.2 PPG, 1.9 APG, 76.4% FT
Junior year: 18.8 PPG, 3.1 APG, 81.8% FT

This type of improvement is why I’m higher on him than most despite his deficiencies. He has a killer work ethic that will help him succeed at the next level, and if you look at the types of players in drafts that usually wind up being steals it’s the ones that work their tails off to steadily improve each year until they become the most complete player possible. Look at the impact guys like PJ Tucker and Draymond Green have had in the playoffs. I’m leaning towards labeling Williams as a trendsetter or outlier as those guys have been throughout their career.

Where he’s going in mock drafts:
ESPN: 23rd
NBADraftRoom: 31st
NBADraftNet: 34th
Tankathon: 21st
CBS: 13th
The Stepien: 13th

Where I have him: Late lottery (11-14 range)

2) Tyler Herro- SG, Kentucky.
6’6”, 195 lbs., 19 years old.

Herro’s season at Kentucky was a bit up and down, but he really started to come into form and ramp
things up to close out the year strong. He showcased his creativity with the ball and his pure stroke from long range. He shot 35% from three-point range on over 4.6 attempts per game along with an incredible 93% free throw clip. A lot of mock drafts and big boards I’ve seen have him anywhere from the mid to late first round, but in a league where shooting and play-making from the perimeter is extremely valuable, I think some teams in the late lottery will regret it if they pass on him. Every team in the NBA is constantly searching for reliable shooting, making Herro a sought-after commodity especially if he continues to improve in other areas of his game.

Kentucky guards in the past have shown that sometimes they don’t always get to flash their entire array of skills or reach their full potential due to how stacked their teams can be depth-wise. If you’re taking Herro you’re betting on him having a lot more in his bag than he’s shown, which I think he does.

Where he’s going in mock drafts:
ESPN: 16th
NBADraftRoom: 15th
NBADraftNet: 21st
Tankathon: 18th
CBS: 28th
The Stepien: 22nd

Where I have him: Late lottery (12-15 range)

3) Mattisse Thybulle- G/F, Washington
6’5”, 205 lbs., 22 years old

Thybulle is one of the more intriguing defensive prospects we’ve seen in a long time with his
ridiculous steal and block rates (stocks). He averaged an otherworldly 3.5 steals per game along with 2.2 blocks per game last season. Washington does play a zone defense that allows him to play almost as a free safety making excellent reads off the ball, but with the transition to playing man to man defense at the next level it’ll be interesting to see how he adjusts. His instincts and off-ball prowess are not in question, but will he be able to be as much of a menace at the point of attack?

Offensively he has some question marks as far as what his ceiling is. He is an extraordinary athlete with quick twitch fibers that allows him to explode in transition and off the dribble. He gets a lot of comparisons to Andre Roberson, but I think he has a little more offensive potential and could potentially become an efficient (low volume) three-point shooter. He is a career 35% three-point shooter and shot over 85% from the charity stripe this year.

Perimeter defense is vital in today’s NBA when trying to slow down some of the elite scorers in the game and that’s what you’re hoping Thybulle develops into: a defensive stopper.

Where he’s going in mock drafts:
ESPN: 24th
NBADraftRoom: 27th
NBADraftNet: 29th
Tankathon: 26th
CBS: 33rd
The Stepien: 21st

Where I have him: Mid 1st (17-22 range)

4) Dylan Windler- F, Belmont.
6’8”, 210 lbs., 21 years old.

One of the most valuable things a late 1st round or early 2nd round pick can offer you is one elite-
level NBA-ready skill that translates right off the bat. Windler offers that in his smooth shooting stroke from deep and has shown he can get it off in a variety of ways. The lanky lefty not only has a sweet stroke, but he has very good size and can put the ball on the deck and make plays for others as well. Windler isn’t the quickest player, but he is extremely crafty and has a high basketball IQ that helps him get his shot off whenever he wants it. His competitive nature and steady improvement during his career at Belmont should make him an intriguing late 1st round pick. He has a little bit of Joe Ingles in his game but with more juice.

Windler constantly faced double coverage all season long at Belmont as he was the go-to guy for the Bruins on offense averaging 21.3 PPG and 10.3 RPG on 54/42/84 shooting splits his senior season. He is a career 40 percent shooter from three-point range and has improved in each of his four seasons from that department. He isn’t an elite playmaker, but he makes the right reads with smart, high-IQ passes, reading the defense. He has all the skills to develop into a valuable starter or even an elite role player, which is all you can ask for from a prospect in his range.

Where he’s going in mock drafts:
ESPN: 31st
NBADraftRoom: 30th
NBADraftNet: 37th
Tankathon: 36th
CBS: 29th
The Stepien: N/A (1st round only)

Where I have him: Late 1st (24-28 range)

As you can see, these four guys I focused on may not have super-star potential or anything like that, but they project to provide valuable skills that will translate right away. In the range these prospects are projected to go, I believe they could be the best “bang for your buck” values in the entire draft. I don’t blame teams for passing on some of these guys in order to try and hit a home run, but sometimes hitting a double is better than striking out.

Follow Brandon @AZSportsZone
Arizona Sports Zone