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2024 NBA Draft: Clear No. 2 Center Prospect?

Donovan Clingan's draft stock is rising.

The 2024 NBA draft class at center has very good depth, including big names like Alex Sarr, Donovan Clingan, and Zach Edey. There are multiple first round picks at the position with a deep second round prospect list as well. Sarr is the clear top prospect and in contention for the number one overall pick. Behind him, Clingan is widely considered the far and away number two guy at center for this NBA draft class.

Clingan stands at a massive seven-foot-two and 280 pounds, with a seven-foot-six inch wingspan. His standing reach sits right at an outstanding nine-foot-seven inches. Clingan finished the 2023-24 season averaging 13.0 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks per game.

Given rising NBA trends and players at the position however, should Clingan’s standing be reevaluated?

2024 NBA Draft: Clear No. 2 Center Prospect?

The Dereck Lively Effect

The vertical spacing big man has been an NBA archetype for a very long time. While not often perimeter floor spacers, they stretch the floor vertically with lob-dunks via rolls and cuts. Playing with high-level primary playmakers and ball handlers is where this archetype really thrives. In terms of the NBA draft, ideal prospects for this style often possess great length and vertical leaping ability. These prospects also can often times fare better in ‘switch-defense’ situations. This is due to the length and athleticism mentioned above which allows them to keep up with smaller, faster guards. In recent draft classes, it also appears this may be a safer archetype to bet on for solid NBA success.

The 2023 class produced Dereck Lively and Trayce Jackson-Davis. We’ve also seen Jalen Duren, Mark Williams, Walker Kessler, and Christian Koloko all have promising starts from the 2022 class.

Of course, Lively of the 2023 draft class is the hottest name in this space currently. It was very intriguing watching Lively arguably outperform DPOY winner Rudy Gobert in the western conference finals. Sure, Gobert is a massive paint deterrent and the better player overall, but his deficiencies were very clear. Exploiting mismatches and forcing teams to play ‘switch’ defense is a staple of NBA playoff basketball. Gobert’s subpar mobility and need to play drop coverage exclusively was exposed by the Mavericks star guards.

So, Who Else?

So, are there any current prospects that fit this archetype? If so, why don’t they receive as much love as Clingan for this NBA draft class?

First, there are multiple prospects who hope to be vertical spacers at the next level. Kel’el Ware, Yves Missi, Adem Bona, and Oso Ighodaro all hope to fill this role. Sarr won’t be included here as he’s in a space of his own. In this group though, Ware and Missi top the list as they hope to be first round or possible lottery picks.

Ware has dealt with motor concerns in the past, and maybe had to large a role at Indiana this season. He passes the eye test however as a high-flying seven-footer with good mobility. Missi also can sky above the rim and showed great movement for measuring at six-foot-ten. He is still raw in his overall touch and feel for the game however. It’s worth mentioning also that both their success may be tied to the guard play of whichever team drafts them.

Even still, if these prospects follow the trend of recent years for their archetype, they should be relatively safe bets. Also, if drafted later in the first round or second, they will have the advantage of lower performance expectations. Does Clingan have this same relative safety, especially if he’s taken as a top seven pick?

Final Thoughts

Make no mistake, we’re discussing a fantastic player and two-time national champion in Clingan. There’s almost no doubt that Clingan will be an NBA draft lottery pick and longtime contributor in the NBA. Him being the number two guy at center in this NBA draft class is not a bad choice.

However, there have always been questions about his archetype as a big man with below average mobility and vertical athleticism. It’s not that Clingan is immobile, especially for his size, but it certainly wouldn’t be considered a strength. He posted the second worse lane agility time for the NBA combine at 12.06. Granted, Gobert is also famously known for bad combine times, and he just won his third DPOY award. Gobert and Clingan aren’t one to one comparisons, but they both can compensate lower athletic traits with massive size/length.

Finally, it’s also worth mentioning again how draft positioning relates to Clingan’s perceived success. Player comparisons for Clingan like Gobert and Kessler were drafted 27th and 22nd respectively. This allowed people’s perceived value of their play to be dramatically high when compared to where they were drafted. The 2024 NBA draft class however is widely considered one of the weakest drafts in recent memory. This has caused some prospects to be considered for higher picks than they would in an otherwise normal draft.

With the pace of the NBA constantly growing, is Clingan so far above others as to warrant top five NBA draft consideration?


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