Memphis Grizzlies: What Role Will Brandon Clarke Play With the Team This Season?

Brandon Clarke Memphis Grizzlies NBA Draft Prospect (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Brandon Clarke Memphis Grizzlies NBA Draft Prospect (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) /
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Memphis Grizzlies
(Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images) /

First Unit Reps

Sorry to break your hearts, over-zealous Memphis fans: Brandon Clarke will not be in the starting lineup when opening night rolls around in October. The starting power forward and center positions will be locked down by Jaren Jackson and Jonas Valanciunas, respectively, and the Grizzlies already have far too many small forwards under contract to try to play Clarke out of position at the 3.

This isn’t to say that Clarke won’t get an opportunity to play a lot of basketball with the first unit.

Jaren Jackson’s struggles to stay out of foul trouble were well-documented in his rookie year, and in instances where Jaren picks up two quick fouls in the first few minutes of a game, Clarke is an excellent high-energy replacement whose rim-running abilities complement the passing acumen of his fellow rookie Ja Morant.

Furthermore, since the status of the Grizzlies backup center position is currently uncertain, it’s possible that we see starting center Valanciunas get subbed out of games for Clarke, shifting Jackson to the center for a few minutes and allowing Clarke to play power forward alongside Jaren.

This lineup option has the potential of mirroring so many of the high-low sets that the Grizzlies ran with Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph for years (like this one).

Jaren’s ability to knock down jump shots makes him a dangerous high-post threat, while Clarke’s leaping ability and strength close to the rim could pose a lot of problems for opposing power forwards.