The Other Memphis Rookie

The Other Memphis Rookie

Even if you haven’t been keeping up with the 2019-2020 NBA season, you’ve probably seen a highlight or two of electrifying rookie Ja Morant pulling off an incredible pass or reaching near-impossible heights for a fast-break slam in transition. With Zion Williamson not making his debut until halfway through the season, Morant seems to be running away with the Rookie of the Year award. He is currently leading all rookies in points (17.9) and assists (7.0) per game. He is leading a team that was thought to be in the lottery into playoff contention in the stacked Western Conference. Ja seems to be the real deal.

I think it is unfair that the other rookie on the Grizzlies’ roster is not getting enough credit for the young team’s success. Ja definitely deserves all the attention he is getting, but Brandon Clarke is another young stud who is putting together his own stellar rookie campaign alongside his teammate.

Looking at the numbers, Clarke is in the top ten (among rookies) in points, rebounds (second), and field goal percentage. He also leads all rookies in win shares and VORP. He currently has a higher Player Efficiency rating than Paul George, Bradley Beal, Ben Simmons, and Demar Derozan. He is top 10 in true shooting percentage. He has a role and he excels in it.

Clarke and Ja celebrate after the Grizzlies win the NBA Summer League Championship. Clarke would go home as tournament MVP.
Photo credit: The Rookie Wire – USA Today

He is playing sort of like Montrezl Harrell. He is a great spark plug off the bench and is a savvy rim runner and bouncy defender. As a friendly reminder, his last season at Gonzaga he led the NCAA in field goal percentage and total blocks. His 68.7% shooting and 3.2 blocks per game were absurd. He has carried that over to the NBA shooting 63% and recording almost 1 block per game in 21 minutes of action.

The biggest difference between Clarke and Harrell is that the former shows signs of being a viable stretch-4 option. In 4 1/2 seasons, Montrezl has attempted 46 threes, making only 5 of them. So far Clarke has hoisted up 42 three point attempts, making 17. That equals a 40% shooting clip, which is phenomenal for a rookie big man. He only attempts about one per game, but he is already showing signs that he can have a multi-faceted game.

All eyes are on Ja Morant with reason, but Brandon Clarke is no slouch. While he might not be the explosive perennial All-Star his teammate appears to be, he will be an incredible piece for a contending team for years to come.

Featured photo credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie – USA TODAY Sports

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