Memphis Grizzlies rookie Brandon Clarke had a career-high 25 points on 11 of 14 shooting in a breakout performance in a 128-111 win over the Washington Wizards Saturday night. His night was punctuated by a poster dunk that the internet quickly deemed as a "career-ender" for the Wizard's Ian Mahinmi.
In sports, the word potential is something that gets thrown around all too often. An athlete shows one facet of his game that shows possible elite level promise and people tend to assume that the rest will come with the package in due time. A player can run fast and jump high? Just work on your jump shot and you're Michael Jordan kid! Oh, he's 6'11 and can hit a jump shot? Add some ball-handling and you're Kevin Durant!
It happens. Players are labeled with what they can be, but never live up to those expectations. But in the case of Brandon Clarke, he's showing skills that are already elite level and need only more time to reach their full potential.
Clarke is a jumping jack. He goes from the ground to the sky in a way that makes a bottle rocket jealous. He has an insane leaping ability and uses it to block and alter shots as well as to get rebounds on both ends of the floor. This skill alone is enough to garner high expectations as far as potential goes, but there is so much more depth to his game that points to the promise of what he could be down the line.
On top of averaging 12.7 points and 5.9 rebounds per game, Clarke is also shooting 65.1 percent from the field, which is fourth in the league. For a player like Clarke who shoots from the perimeter, and not just under the basket, this is extremely impressive being that the players in front of him do not. He is fifth in the league in effective field goal percentage at 69 percent and second in the league in true shooting percentage at 70.6 percent. He is also shooting 13 of 25 on three-pointers for an incredible 52 percent, which is one of the things that was labeled as his weakness entering the draft.
Brandon Clark Locker Room Comments After Win Over Wizards
“I think it’s been kind of this case all season where he just has a knack for being in the right place at the right time," Grizzlies Head Coach Taylor Jenkins said about Clarke after the team's win over Washington. "I think he’s got great chemistry with his teammates and plays at a great pace. He just fits our motion style where the ball is just constantly moving and people are moving and he obviously makes some highlight plays out there. But, he’s just super efficient, which is just kind of a byproduct of him being who he is. It’s just great. He’s not trying to force anything out there. He just takes what the defense gives him."
Brandon Clarke has shown a ton of potential as well as a ton of production so far in his rookie season. It's simply scary to imagine just how good he could be in the coming years. He is older than a typical rookie at 23, but he still has a ton of room to grow. It's cliche to say that the sky is the limit but for a player that can already fly - he needs an updated bar to reach. If he continues to combine his athleticism with his elite-level efficiency and unexpected three-point shooting - his potential could be limitless.