Memphis Grizzlies: The next step for Summer League MVP Brandon Clarke is adding a 3-point shot to his game

Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images
Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images /

The Memphis Grizzlies No. 22 pick Brandon Clarke made the most of Summer League and revealed a secret skill in his bag whilst doing so. 

The Memphis Grizzlies seem to be making significant strides in their rebuilding effort in a short amount of time. Aside from bringing in young talent with smart trades, Memphis has drafted well in the past two offseasons.

The franchise was aspiring to compete for a playoff spot at the beginning of the 2018-19 season and did not want to draft a young backcourt player behind Mike Conley. Jaren Jackson Jr. was obviously the best available frontcourt player and made an instant impact as a starter.

Fast forward a year, and selecting Ja Morant with the third overall pick was a no-brainer for a franchise that got lucky on lottery day.

Nonetheless, the Grizzlies’ other rookie Brandon Clarke was not high on every team’s draft board and slipped all the way to no. 22 in the draft. He is now emerging as a potential steal after putting up big numbers and being named the NBA Summer League MVP.

A caveat must be added. Clarke faced lesser competition in summer league as most teams rested their lottery picks to keep their young stars healthy for the regular season.

Also, some of the concerns that scouts had about late-round picks prior to the draft are still very much present and it is yet to be seen whether Clarke can hold himself out against the elite competition. He measures as a wing rather than a big but makes up for it with his energy, instinct and competitiveness.

In spite of all that, the question marks about his size would not really matter if he can do one thing many thought he was not good at — shooting the basketball efficiently.

Clarke averaged 14.7 points per game on 55 percent shooting from the floor to go along with 9.8 rebounds per game. He can live off offensive boards and can roll to the rim to produce points, and that is what he did in Vegas.

There is one statistic that comes at you and excites Memphis fans who already have a lot to forward to in the upcoming season.

Clarke shot 56 percent from 3-point range in six summer league games. It hurts to say it was just a sample size (5-of-9) and it may not translate into the regular season.

In three college seasons, Clarke shot 61.8 percent from the charity stripe and his 3-point percentage is better untold. At 22 years of age, he is closer to his prime than his teammates Jaren Jackson Jr. and Ja Morant.

However, there are reports that he tweaked his shot and worked hard on making shots from beyond the 3-point line.

If Clarke can make around 35 percent of his 3-pointers in the 2019-20 season on four attempts per game, he can make the Valanciunas’ contract look really bad. That number would also force the coaching staff to play Jaren Jackson Jr. at the 5 and see how they blend in together.

The holes in Clarke’s game will not be so apparent if he plays next to JJJ, who is as good a rim protector as anyone. A Jaren Jackson Jr. & Brandon Clarke frontcourt would mean there is an indomitable interior defender near the basket whenever one of them leaves his post to defend a pick and roll on the perimeter, which both of them are able to do.

Most success stories involve the element of being in the right place at the right time. Clarke will have a high-ceiling partner in JJJ at the opening tip and a PG in Morant, whose court vision will lead Clarke to easy buckets.

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It all comes down to Clarke’s offense and whether he can develop a respectable outside shot while continuing to be a plug-and-play type of energizer. We’ll find out real soon.