With two first round picks at their disposal in the 2019 NBA Draft, could the San Antonio Spurs consider selecting Brandon Clarke, the high-flyer from Gonzaga?
After an atrocious 1-7 Rodeo Road Trip marked the worst record since the San Antonio Spurs started participating in the stint of games away from the confines of the AT&T Center during the month of February, the Spurs have flipped the switch, winning their sixth straight contest after a close matchup against the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday night which means they will likely be out of the NBA Draft Lottery yet again this year.
Despite losing Dejounte Murray to a season-ending injury in the preseason, the Spurs have experienced great, and somewhat unexpected, production from their guards this season. However, outside of LaMarcus Aldridge, San Antonio’s collection of bigs have left a lot to be desired.
As such, the Spurs should consider targeting some frontcourt depth in the 2019 NBA Draft to complement LMA and inject some new blood into this roster.
In this article, we’re going to take a deep dive into Brandon Clarke’s game and how he could fit in on the Spurs roster.
A Phoenix native, Clarke began his collegiate career with San Jose State, where he spent his first two seasons before transferring to Gonzaga, joining a talented frontcourt with fellow breakout star Rui Hachimura.
Consistent as always with head coach Mark Few at the helm, Gonzaga began the season as one of the top teams in the nation. However, that status was not truly solidified until the Maui Invitational championship game that pitted the number 3 Zags against the top-ranked Duke Blue Devils and their triumvirate of future lottery pick freshmen in Zion Williamson, RJ Barrett and Cam Reddish.
It was during this heavyweight matchup that Clarke formally re-introduced himself to the college basketball world. The 6′ 8″ forward was a menace on both ends of the floor, scoring 17 points on 7-of-10 shooting from the floor, pulling down five rebounds and posting an eye-popping six blocks in just 23 minutes.
Clarke was saddled with foul trouble for most of this game but he made his presence known on the defensive end, meeting Zion at the glass to prevent what would typically be a SportsCenter Top 10 play against most other defenders in college basketball.
The junior also had a couple of blocks in the final minute of that contest when it was just a single possession game to seal the statement victory for the Zags.
Clarke’s performance did not falter after his coming out party in Maui.
The junior transfer would go on to collect a host of honors and accolades throughout the season, including a 2018-19 Western Coast Conference First Team Selection, and WCC Newcomer and Defensive Player of the Year.
This year, Clarke has been sensational averaging 16.5 points, 8.4 rebounds and a whopping 3 blocks per game. Statistically, Clarke is the most efficient player in college basketball, leading all Division I players with 69.4 percent shooting from the floor. Further, Clarke is top three in the country in blocks (99) and blocks per game, while also posting the top Offensive Rating (140.1) in college hoops.
Offensively, Clarke is a rim-running freak of nature using his athleticism to sky through the air to finish off lobs and put backs. His ability to clean up on the glass alone will be enough to get scouts to turn their heads. Clarke also has a few nice interior moves in his offensive arsenal that allow him to create space and get to the basket with ease.
Specifically, Clarke’s go-to move is a nifty spin maneuver that he typically deploys around 5-to-6 feet away from the hoop. Depending on which side of the block he’s on, Clarke will either spin baseline to get to the rim, where he has the strength to finish through contact, but he’s also nimble enough to avoid defenders with an up-and-under scoop layup. Or, if there’s no double-team coming, Clarke likes to pivot back inside toward the middle of the paint where he’s proficient at knocking down his patented floater.
That being said, a majority of Clarke’s offense is generated around the paint. The 22-year-old is virtually a non-factor beyond the arc, knocking down just four three-pointers on 14 attempts (29.8 percent) through 32 games.
Further, Clarke doesn’t really possess that much a jump shot. If it’s not a dunk, layup, or put back, Clarke’s most effective shot is that close-to-the-basket floater. Clarke’s lack of a reliable shot is concerning given his age and will cause many within NBA circles to question how that skillset, or lack thereof, will translate to the next level.
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Defensively, Clarke is a stud. Any questions about Clarke’s offensive game will be squashed momentarily when one observes what he can do on the opposite end of the floor.
With Clarke on the court, no layup within his airspace is safe. With his speed and athleticism, he can cheat a little bit on the defensive end, knowing that even if he’s beat on the initial drive Clarke is still a threat to snuff out the play with an emphatic chase-down block.
Clarke’s presence on the floor alters an opponent’s game plan from the jump.
For the San Antonio Spurs, Clarke could be just what the doctor ordered in terms of an ideal NBA draft prospect. Defensively, the Spurs have struggled all season, especially on the road, where their defensive woes have been exacerbated. The integration of a bouncy rim-runner who’s active on the defensive end could complement the strong guard play exhibited this season.
While there are legitimate concerns about Clarke’s shot-making abilities, perhaps working with Spurs shooting specialist Chip Engelland and the rest of the team’s developmental staff could help Clarke’s confidence grow as he continues to mature at the next level.
Despite some offensive struggles, the Spurs could decide to take a chance on Clarke anyway, while punting on the idea of transforming him into a viable jump-shooter. Being one of the top three-point shooting teams in the league by percentage, the Spurs could opt to continue with their current scheme and add another gritty athlete to the mix who can help out on the glass.
Taking everything into consideration, I believe that Gonzaga’s Brandon Clarke is an extremely interesting prospect that the Spurs should think long and carefully about if given the opportunity to select him.
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Here are some other prospects the Spurs may take a hard look at this year: