Brandon Clarke transferred from San Jose State University as an undersized 5 that was clearly athletic and talented enough to play at a major university, but too small to really become anything in the NBA. He's now projected as a borderline lottery pick in most mock drafts. I think that he'll be an All-Star in the NBA.
Clarke's statistical profile jumps out among college players. He averaged 25 points, 13 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, 5 blocks, and 2 turnovers per 70 possessions in his Junior year at Gonzaga. As a comparison, Tim Duncan averaged 25 points, 18 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal, 4 blocks, 4 turnovers per 70 possessions in his final year at Wake Forest. Clarke also has the second-best college BPM of all time, behind Zion Williamson. Rounding out the top 5 are All-NBA players Anthony Davis, Karl-Anthony Towns, and Victor Oladipo.
Yet because of his age, the fact that he's a small 6'8", and that he doesn't have much of a shot, we see him falling far behind where these players are/were projected. I'm not worried, because Clarke is a fantastic transition player, roll man, and isolation player, in addition to being a fantastic post and perimeter defender. His wingspan, which isn't officially yet listed but likely roams around 7-feet, allows him to play bigger than he is.
His game is very reminiscent of Pascal Siakam. He's got a solid spin gather that reminds me of Pascal. Both he and Siakam are incredible finishers and are able to consistently beat their man. He can keep up with quick guards on the wing or bigs in the post, his versatility being his strength. He's extremely quick and athletic and knows the game well, and he will find the open teammate in the more obvious situations. He doesn't have the shot that Siakam has, but it looks like it could develop as he's improved from the mid-50s to about 70% from the free throw line. He is a very solid rebounder but will need to learn to be less aggressive and more smart with his positioning. He is an extremely good roller.
Clarke's quickness and athleticism will consistently allow him to create good looks for himself, even at the next level. Specifically, he sees the open court very well in transition, even when off-ball. Combined with his finishing ability and speed, he can get out in front of everyone and finish at the rim unlike very many players in the NBA. This is a quality of Siakam, but also of Giannis, Simmons, and Julius Randle. It's where I can see him becoming a star in the league. He'll have to improve his passing, but if he learns how to read when the defense commits to him he'll be an offensive force, as he already sees it.
I may be mistaken, but above is one of the most impressive subtleties I've seen when watching basketball. Clarke sees the four men on one half of the court, understands there are two teammates to his left, one to space out the defender, and he sets a screen on the defender of the man cutting to the basket. His on-court awareness is top-notch, which feeds into why I feel he'll be among the best defenders in the league as well.
Below, Clarke feels out the defense, doesn't have a great shot and stays patient for the cutter. Another example of his awareness.
Clarke has a great feel in the pick and roll. Because of this, he's able to disect opposing defenses when they aren't sure whether to switch or not to switch. He does a small slip screen and gets wide open immediately. Another thing to love about Clarke in the pick and roll is that he rolls with purpose and into space, forcing the defense to make a move on him or he'll get an open shot.
Again, here is another example of how quick he is in the pick and roll and how great he is at forcing the defense to make a decision. When the play breaks down, he sets up in the post where he's got a variety of moves. He grades out in the 96th percentile among college players in PPP in the post.
An extremely adept and multi-faceted scorer, Brandon Clarke will have no trouble adapting to the NBA. He plays a role that we've seen growing in the NBA, as a skill big, and he plays it about as well as we've seen anybody play it at the college level.
Here's how Clarke compares to two recently drafted skill bigs in Pascal Siakam and Marvin Bagley III. He blows them out of the water in most categories. Though that shouldn't come as a surprise, he blows nearly everyone out of the water.
We've already covered that he's a terrific transition player. He's also incredibly gifted posting-up other bigs, cutting, and in isolation.
Here is where we get really excited about Clarke's NBA ability. He can beat most players off the dribble, and he's already got veteran-level gather moves. Keep an eye on his shot, if it continues to develop into a contest-worthy shot, he'll be all the more dangerous in isolation. It's possible for him to continue to grow into one of the better isolation players in the NBA.
While he is a good rebounder and very solid at getting himself in position, he can get over aggressive when one is in play. Here's just one example of plenty that I saw.
Brandon Clarke has the potential to become an elite NBA defender. He can guard quick guards on the perimeter, he has fantastic instincts on when and how to stop a broken down play. Below, he stays aware and follows the roll man when he gets open, effectively shutting down the open lane. He then out-muscles the opposing big and forces an awful hook shot from the top of the paint.
Clarke's instincts are on full display here, as he times his help defense perfectly, alongside taking away the passing lane to his own big man, so that the Tennessee guard is forced into a ridiculously difficult decision to make in the air. The guard ends up traveling, but the refs miss it.
We see Clarke's ability to defend on the perimeter here. He switches onto the guard, and stays in front of him the whole way to the basket. As a result, we see a very difficult shot at the rim, one that Clarke contests very well.
Clarke is already a great defender, but he can be a bit jumpy at times. Here's an example of him trying to jump the passing lane and then the pump-fake. This will typically force help defense, enabling what is called a power play (essentially a 5v4, 4v3, etc. opportunity for the offense.)
Clarke is going to be a fantastic NBA player. He already was one playing at Gonzaga and SJSU. His awareness, athleticism, quickness, and experience allow him to have a very low floor of a starter. Likewise, those traits give him a fairly high ceiling as well. If he were to fill out to his ability he could become an All-NBA caliber player, and I'm led to believe that he will reach that level.
When we look at how his teams performed before and after Clarke played at either college, we see a common improvement in SRS, the average being 8.6. While in part because of 2 or 3 other rotation players coming in and going out every year, none had nearly as big of an impact as Clarke did.
Brandon Clarke leaves college with the second highest BPM season ever, and that's only because we're including Zion Williamson. If not for his age, he would be the second highest prospect on my list, but because of it he drops to fourth. Don't be surprised when he begins to be mentioned among RJ Barrett and Ja Morant for the second pick of the draft.