The Memphis Grizzlies play for an NBA Summer League championship tonight in Las Vegas. But they’ve already won in a figurative sense, and regardless of outcome against the Timberwolves they also have their other 1st round pick bringing back some hardware from the desert.
Brandon Clarke has been named the 2019 NBA Las Vegas Summer League MVP, as well as first team All-Summer League.
Clarke, across five games played and 21.4 minutes played per game, has shot an extremely efficient 57% from the floor while leading the summer Grizzlies in points scored per game at 14.6. He also averaged an absurd 1.6 blocks per game in those short minutes, and also grabbed 8.6 rebounds per game.
Clarke, the rookie out of Gonzaga University that Memphis selected #21 overall after trading up from #23 in the 2019 NBA Draft, has been a force of nature in Las Vegas. He has been an explosive finisher at the rim and also is exactly what he was in college on the defensive end, blocking shots and protecting the lane at an elite clip despite not having traditional rim protector measurables. His athleticism is through the roof, but perhaps even more importantly he is a competitor who is also cerebral, understanding how to use his body defensively and find space offensively to maximize his impact.
Will this translate to immediate NBA dominance? Probably not - Josh Selby is the last Summer League MVP for the Grizzlies after all. But six of the last seven Summer League MVPs since the Selby/Damian Lillard co-MVP show have all been impactful players in one way or another (sorry Glen Rice Jr.), and four of them now call Memphis home-
- Jonas Valanciunas (2013)
- Kyle Anderson (2015)
- Tyus Jones (2016)
- Brandon Clarke (2019)
Clarke won’t be asked to be too much early in his NBA career. As the likely first big off the bench he will probably average comparable minutes to what he had in Summer League, and will have the benefit of facing other reserve big men while lining up alongside either a bruiser like Valanciunas or a skilled unicorn big like Jaren Jackson Jr. He can grow in to being this type of a player on the main roster, adding even more tools to his offensive game and continuing to refine himself as a defender as the competition gets better once the fall comes.
For now? Enjoy it, Memphis. Even without the #2 overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft Ja Morant playing a second in this summer league session, the Grizzlies have an MVP.