When the Memphis Grizzlies traded up to select Brandon Clarke in the 2019 draft, the new front office established a blueprint they would follow in future drafts: If the front office identified a player they wanted they were willing to give up future assets to draft them. Brandon Clarke rewarded the front offices confidence by making the All-Rookie First Team. He endured a bit of a sophomore slump, but rebounded nicely last year to have the best campaign of his career. This is a contract year for Brandon Clarke and a huge opportunity to reward the Grizzlies’ faith in his game and establish himself as a key part of the Grizzlies core going forward.
Brandon Clarke’s extension has been a talking point going into training camp, but the Grizzlies have handled it professionally, and there is optimism a deal will get done before next week’s deadline. Clarke clearly wants to remain with the Grizzlies and a key part of the Grizzlies future is retaining him on a reasonable contract. He is an excellent short-roll partner with both Ja Morant and Tyus Jones, and the Grizzlies can only benefit from signing him to a long-term deal. The hope is Clarke will be a key piece of many playoff campaigns to come, and I am confident both sides will get the money to work.
Clarke proved worthy of a long-term deal in this year’s Timberwolves playoff series. He averaged over 16 points a game and nearly 4 offensive rebounds a game. Those second-chance opportunities were crucial in closing out the Wolves in that series. Clarke showed how impactful he can be when it mattered most. His high-energy, dynamic play was a key reason the Grizzlies won a competitive first round playoff series. The expectation is that Clarke will be a key playoff contributor as the Grizzlies core continues to grow.
With Jaren Jackson missing the beginning of the season, a big question has been who will start at the four for the Grizzlies in his absence. Clarke’s name has been mentioned as a potential starter but as opening night approaches, it appears that he is likely to remain on the bench. The spacing issues with Adams and Clarke on the floor are real ,and Clarke has historically been more productive coming off the bench. The likeliest scenario is Santi Aldama starting at the 4, and the Grizzlies keeping Clarke on the bench to provide consistency and continue to be an effective rebounder and lob threat. The Grizzlies like Clarke coming off the bench where he can do most of his damage and I expect it to remain that way.
One area Clarke can improve is his three-point shooting. His rookie season he shot 35% from three on 64 attempts, but only 22% on 22 shots. Clarke does not need to be a lights-out three-point shooter, but if he can just replicate his rookie production from three, it will go a long way toward opening up his game. A big part of that will be more willing to shoot from three. If he can up his attempts and shoot a reasonable percentage from three, Clarke will be a legitimate sixth man candidate.
Brandon Clarke was a member of the 2019 draft class that began a new era of Grizzlies basketball. He was able to bounce back from a middling sophomore campaign. Clarke has shown he is a part of a bright Grizzlies future; if he can take a leap, he will be in line for a massive, well-deserved pay day.