Brandon Clarke is one of the names that’s most commonly thrown around by draft experts as a fit with the Minnesota Timberwolves. The 6-foot-8 forward from Gonzaga could be a potential fit alongside Karl-Anthony Towns in the frontcourt for the Wolves.
What to like
Much of Clarke’s offense comes either in transition or at the rim in the half court. He can partly make up for his lack of ability to stretch the floor by being able to run in transition either as an initiator or without the ball. He’s a decent passing big in space, too.
It’s a little thing, but it helps the transition game quite a bit when a guy his size can create a turnover and immediately push, rather than having to get the ball into the hands of someone else. That pass isn’t necessarily anything special, but his ‘get it and go’ mentality on that break creates an open 3-pointer in transition for a teammate. Things like that matter.
Even when he’s not the one initiating the break, he’s good to run the floor and finish the play.
His explosiveness allows him to finish above the rim with relative ease.
Aside from those physical gifts, Clarke will be able to operate as the roll man in the pick-and-roll really well. He can finish at the rim, as illustrated plenty, but also will be able to pass out of the short roll.
On the defensive end of the floor Clarke shows good instincts and his natural athletic ability certainly helps that quite a bit. Despite his underwhelming wingspan (more on that below), he averaged over three blocks per game this past season at Gonzaga.
That should translate to the NBA, but it’s fair to wonder if his size will hinder that to a degree.
What not to like
There are plenty of questions about his game, too. He didn’t measure very well at the combine, as his 6’8 ¼” wingspan was one of the more disappointing measurables for a potential top-flight frontcourt defender. That was news, but the lack of an outside shot isn’t a new thing. It’s something he was never able to fully put together while at Gonzaga.
Clarke began his collegiate career at San Jose State before transferring to Gonzaga for his final season. He was required to sit out the 2017-18 season due to eligibility rules after making the transfer to Gonzaga, and he used much of that time to focus on reworking his shot.
The results of that saw him improve his field goal percentage to nearly 70%, but more importantly his free throw percentage went up from 57% in his final year at San Jose State to 69% in his year at Gonzaga. That still leaves plenty to be desired from Clarke. The room to improve is still substantial, but the 12% increase is a reason for optimism with his shooting. He’s got a long way to go, but certainly can get there.
He doesn’t stretch the floor nearly as well as a 6-foot-8 player should in today’s NBA. His percentage from deep was only 26% at Gonzaga despite the reworked jump shot.
If defenders in college weren’t willing to respect his shooting ability from deep, there’s no question that NBA defenders will let him wander behind the arc with little care about it.
That’s an aspect that certainly can and needs to be improved to maximize Clarke at the NBA level.
Defensively, he certainly could struggle against larger frontcourt players. He measured at only 207lbs at the combine, giving him the body of a guard or a wing instead of a big. He’ll need to add weight while maintaining his explosiveness at the next level.
It’s fair to think that he’s going to struggle defensively when tasked with handling some of the game’s elite offensive bigs, such as Joel Embiid, Karl-Anthony Towns, and Anthony Davis.
Clarke could gain a lot by fixing his outside shot. There’s plenty to like in terms of his game even without the consistency from outside of 12-15 feet away from the basket. One thing that can be looked at as either a positive or a negative – depending on where the team selecting him is in their competitive window is the fact that Clarke will be 23 years old before he plays his first regular season NBA game.