Brandon Clarke may be the best two-way NBA prospect in March Madness

Brandon Clarke may be the best two-way NBA prospect in March Madness

Basketball

Brandon Clarke may be the best two-way NBA prospect in March Madness

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Gonzaga’s Brandon Clarke has been one of the most exciting prospects in the NCAA Tournament, which should help his draft stock.

He did not appear on our aggregate mock drafts before December but has ranked as a late first-round pick in each of our last four aggregate mock drafts since December while Bleacher Report and The Athletic both view him as a lottery pick. His ridiculously high floor could give him even more of a bump given the success he has had during the tournament thus far averaging 29.5 points, 8.0 boards and 4.0 blocks per game en route to the Sweet 16.

The San Jose State transfer actually led the NCAA in field goal percentage (69.9 percent) during the regular season. In fact, through his three years in the NCAA, Clarke ranks as one of the 10 most accurate scorers in college basketball (64.2 percent) since the stat was first recorded by Basketball-Reference in 1985.

Clarke is averaging 1.39 points per possession after two games during the tournament, per Synergy Sports. Among those who have finished at least 27 possessions on offense, none have been more efficient during March Madness. Plus, few have been as electrifying as he has on his dunks.

He is shooting 21-for-27 (77.8 percent) from the field, owning the highest FG% of all players (minimum: 20 possessions) once again.

The 6-foot-8, Canadian-born prospect has scored most of his buckets during the tournament when cutting to the rim. The 22-year-old has missed just two of his nine field goal attempts this play type since March Madness began.

He has been just as impressive on putbacks from offensive rebounds and as the roll man in pick-and-roll possessions. Clarke is averaging an absurd 1.73 PPP on attempts near the basket that were not post-ups.

Not only has he been the most efficient (minimum: 10 attempts), he also ranks No. 3 with 26 points scored with non-post up finishes near the rim, trailing only Duke’s Zion Williamson (31) and Virginia’s Mamadi Diakite (27) for the most during the tournament. But during the regular season, the prospect ranked in the 93rd percentile among all players on post-ups.

This is not much of a change of pace for Clarke, who has long been one of the most dominant scorers near the basket. According to The Stepien, he was 153-for-191 (80.1 percent) at the rim during the regular season. This is where nearly two-thirds of his total shot attempts came from, too, which shows his extreme confidence in his ability in this zone.

He has been one of the most productive scorers when in half-court sets. He has produced 1.28 PPP, which ranks in the best possible percentile. But he has also averaged 1.30 PPP in transition, which ranks in the 89th percentile among all players.

All of this comes without even mentioning his defense, where Clarke leads the NCAA with 106 blocks. As noted by CBS Sports, he has more blocks than shots missed on the offensive end.

His defensive rating (84.4) was the second-best in college basketball while his defensive box plus-minus (9.7) ranked third. With a 6-foot-10 wingspan, he can make life miserable for almost anyone he is defending.

The only college player who had a higher overall box plus-minus than Clarke was Williamson. And as noted by The Athletic’s Sam Vecenie, Clarke has the best Player Efficiency Rating of any player this decade besides Williamson. However, Clarke actually had more win shares per 40 minutes than the Duke superstar recorded.

Even if the full scope of his game does not translate to the pros, his progress has been worth monitoring for folks watching college basketball to find the next generation of players with NBA potential.

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