Multiple teams are vying for a shot at NCAA stardom

Donovan Clingan could be a top-three selection in the 2024 NBA Draft.

In their latest mock draft, ESPN’s Jonathan Givony and Jeremy Woo had the giant center drafted seventh overall behind the Portland Trail Blazers. However, they report that “there are rumors around the league that teams like Portland, Memphis and Chicago could move up to draft Clingan.” Notably, the Houston Rockets are expected to “strongly pursue trade opportunities” with the No. 3 pick.

Multiple teams are vying for the opportunity to draft Donovan Clingan

Although Clingan only took nine threes in college, his experience in pre-draft shooting drills has scouts imagining him as the next Brook Lopez.

Notably, Lopez only took 21 three-pointers in college. He had a career-high 31 three-point attempts after his first eight seasons. However, he completely changed his game in 2016/17, hitting 387 career three-pointers. Since then, he has launched 2,264 more three-pointers. Clingan still has to prove his upside shooting is more than a theory. That said, there’s reason to believe he can develop that part of his game.

Another problem with Clingan is his ability to guard in space. As Minnesota Timberwolves center Rudy Gobert has shown, blocking shots isn’t the be-all and end-all of high-level defense. Clingan is an active defender, which can somewhat mask his lack of athleticism. However, his results from the Draft Combine tell the true story. Clingan’s maximum vertical (29.0 inches), lane agility (12.06 seconds), shuttle run (3.38 seconds) and 3/4 court sprint (3.46) were all below average.

Finally, while Clingan is a popular prospect due to his performance at UConn, there are a number of collegiate stars who struggled at the next level. Take former UConn big man Adama Sanogo, for example. Sanogo had a decorated college career, winning a national championship and being named the 2023 NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player. In his senior season, he led the Big East in points and was third in rebounds. Months later, he was no longer drafted and has played a total of 66 minutes.

That said, teams could certainly be lining up for Clingan. In 2023-2024, he averaged 2.5 blocks in 22.5 minutes per game. He’s a big boy at 7-foot-1 and 282 pounds, with a 7-foot wingspan and an 8-foot standing reach. His length and feel make him a potential weapon on both ends of the court. Indeed, in many ways he resembles Walker Kessler, the Utah Jazz center who at age 22 was already an elite rim protector.

Offensively, Clingan doesn’t have to be a reincarnation of Lopez. He is comfortable with his back to the basket and shows nimble footwork and a soft touch. His size will overwhelm a slew of defenders. He may not be Nikola Jokic, but he does a good job on the back burner.

Additionally, the Memphis Grizzlies and Chicago Bulls need a man in the middle. The Grizzlies traded starting center Steven Adams in February. The Bulls want to move their starting center, Nikola Vucevic, as quickly as possible. The Portland Trail Blazers seem like a less likely destination, as they would have to move Deandre Ayton and his expensive contract for the deal to work. Nevertheless, the Oklahoma City Thunder and Sacramento Kings are lottery teams that also need shot blockers.

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