It could all be smoke, but the Hawks appear fond of Gonzaga forward Brandon Clarke. A bouncy athlete – he has already worked out for the team and had a private dinner with Lloyd Pierce and Travis Schlenk. The Hawks official Twitter account also tweeted this informative piece about Brandon Clarke:
— Atlanta Hawks (@ATLHawks) June 6, 2019
It probably doesn’t mean anything, as the Hawks have done this for several players, but there is interest between the two parties.
The primary negative thing said about Clarke is his size. That’s always the most comfortable thing for scouts to knock. Fortunately for teams that can look past a player’s body type, physical tools are not what determines how far you make it at the next level. It helps, but it is skill development that allows players to overcome the odds and be successful in the NBA, and Clarke has one of the most intriguing toolboxes in this draft class.
At 6’8″, Clarke could slide in nicely next to John Collins and play the power forward spot. Collins would have to move to center, but that should not be an issue with the way the NBA is transitioning to smaller lineups. It also helps that at 6’8″, Clarke plays like he’s 7’3″ on the defensive end. In his one year at Gonzaga after transferring from San Jose State, he averaged a ridiculous 3.2 block shots in 28.1 minutes per game.
So clearly his shorter frame didn’t affect him on the defensive side. It allows him to be quicker, guard multiple positions, and provide better help defense. If Clarke is nothing else in the NBA, he will be a plus defender that is active in passing lanes and always around the rim blocking shots. Although, his 207-pound weigh in at the NBA Combine is concerning. Clarke will have to bulk up if he wants to defend bigger bodies in the paint and become an elite defensive player.
Clarke’s not shy about using his athleticism on the offensive side either. He loves to play above the rim, which makes him a prime candidate to benefit from Trae Young’s passing. In the post, Clarke progressed nicely in college. He can put the ball on the floor and make a move. His favorite is a spin move – where he sets the defender up baseline and spins towards the middle for an easy bucket. But I’m not sure that’s the type of offense Clarke will be running in Atlanta. His height and smaller frame will also make it more difficult for him to navigate in the post at the NBA level.
The Hawks will want him spacing the floor with his jumper. At Gonzaga, that was not something he was able to do. Clarke rarely took a three-point shot (0.4 attempts per game) and only shot 26.7% on such shots. Beyond the numbers, his shooting stroke could use some work. It won’t ever be something that looks natural, but neither is Draymond Green’s. Not everyone on the Hawks has to be a lights-out shooter, but for the offense to work at its peak, it helps when everyone is respected from behind the arc. Take a look at Clarke’s form:
Brandon Clarke with the corner 3s at #Hawks workout
(🎥 via @ChrisKirschner )
— Backcourt Violation (@backcourtv) May 31, 2019
A promising number to look at in regards to Clarke’s shooting is his free-throw percentage. He shot below 60% in both years he played at San Jose State. That number rose to a hair shy of 70% in his one season at Gonzaga. I know it’s not pretty, but my gut tells me he will be able to shoot threes with some consistency as his NBA career goes on. If that’s the case, his ceiling as a player goes up a few stories (Or ten).
Clarke piques my interest because he exemplifies a lot of the traits the Hawks aren’t right now – which is a good thing. He’s a ball of energy that takes pride in his defense. I don’t want to say Clarke is Draymond Green, because he is 40 pounds lighter than Green was coming out of school, but Clarke can provide a similar effect to this Hawks team. His defensive prowess would be welcomed, and he should be able to find a niche on the offensive side.