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Donovan Clingan 2024 NBA Draft Profile

Donovan Clingan NBA
Donovan Clingan, a two-time national champion, is one of the best centers in the 2024 NBA Draft cycle and a potential top-5 pick. (Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports)

Donovan Clingan 2024 NBA Draft Profile

The 2024 NBA Draft is less than one month away! To tip off our 2024 NBA Draft Profile series, we will delve into two-time reigning national champion center Donovan Clingan, who’s widely regarded as one of the best bigs of the 2024 draft cycle. Let’s hop into it!

Height: 7’1.75″ (7’6.75″ wingspan, 9’7″ standing reach)

Weight: 282

Draft Age: 20.32

Position: Center

Clingan was a four-star prospect out of Bristol Central High School in Bristol, Conn. He was the No. 3 player in the state–behind Ugonna Onyenso and Tafara Gapare, per 247Sports— and was a top-75 player in the country.

He was one of the many lynchpins to UConn’s two national title runs. Though his career began off the bench behind Adama Sanogo as a freshman, averaging just 13.1 minutes per game with a limited role.

Upon Sanogo’s departure, Clingan entered the starting five with a slight uptick in usage and a huge uptick in opportunity. The 7-foot-2 big man averaged 13.0 points, 7.4 rebounds and 2.5 blocks, shooting 63.9 percent of the floor with a 63.7 true shooting percentage in 2023-24.

Throughout his two seasons, he made noticeable improvements in his strength and comfortability on both ends of the floor, even though he still projects to be a modern-day NBA big man with limitations. Let’s go over a few of his strengths and weaknesses!

Strengths:

He was a game-changing shot-blocker on the defensive end of the floor. Clingan played primarily in drop, where his timing and dexterity on the defensive end popped when he was around the rim.

Numbers may not tell the entire story, but for his career, he finished with a 12.6 block percentage, including a Big-East best 11.4 block percentage this season that finished in the top-10 nationally of qualifying players. For what he lacked in athleticism (vertically), he made up for with sheer length and impeccable timing.

Even when he wasn’t blocking shots, Clingan improved at contesting with two hands straight up without fouling, committing just 2.7 fouls per 30 minutes. It’s not easy to shoot over a 7-foot-2 player who’s nearly 300 pounds with a near-10-foot standing reach, and he showed that time and time again. He was exceptional at altering shots at the rim.

I talk about his flaws athletically below, but one thing I was impressed with was: If he got beat, he had very good recovering speed to either block, alter or completely prevent shots at the rim. Clingan moves his feet fairly well defensively, all things considered.

Donovan Clingan also routinely provided himself enough space if the player he defending either 1.) wasn’t a shooter or 2.) was a quicker player who was capable of completely blowing by him off the bounce. Teams run more DHOs and zoom actions at the next level, which could make it more difficult for him, but he got reps on how to play near the level of the screen instead of just sitting in the paint.

Offensively, he was UConn’s primary rolling threat. He took nearly 60 percent of his attempts at the rim and was the team’s top play finisher, rarely showing a poor lack of touch within five feet. I became more impressed with his on- and off-ball screening over time, where he helped free up players within the flow of UConn’s complex, albeit beautiful offensive scheme.

The majority of NBA players aren’t good at screening primarily because they either lack the angle or don’t have a good enough point-of-contact. But that wasn’t Clingan against college guards, for what it’s worth.

He also improved his positioning and processing as a post-up hub, where he drew plenty of gravity that allowed teammates off-ball to take advantage. He didn’t really go over his right shoulder much, which could be an issue the further he goes in his professional career. But he showed he was capable of playmaking out of the post, thus keeping the defense in rotation.

Weaknesses:

It’s naturally hard being incredibly mobile at 7-foot-2. He’s a good-not-great athlete for his size, but where he really lacks athletically is vertical athleticism. He doesn’t have great leaping ability despite being a solid double-jumper.

He had a 25.5 standing vertical and a 29.0 max vertical–both placing second-worst amongst 15 centers who tested at the 2024 NBA Draft Combine. Eek! Given his above-average wingspan and standing reach, it may not make much of a difference, but those marks are still poor.

NBA bigs play above the rim more than they do in college–there’s far more functional size. He will still be able to hold his own, but may be more prone to picking up fouls or getting beaten on the glass against more athletic NBA bigs without clear vertical pop. He runs the floor fairly well, but can be stiff in the hips when he’s brought onto an island, which teams will try to do at the NBA level.

As I mentioned above, he’s got decent feet. Again, it’s hard to be a crazy quick or mobile athlete at his size, but his athleticism a noticeable weakness when evaluating him. You can improve your athleticism over time. But it would not be surprising if he’s limited schematically at the next level as a drop big, where he was dominant at UConn.

The 20-year-old’s not a modern-day big man from a shot-profile perspective, which could compromise his team’s spacing. Clingan took just nine 3s over 74 career games, canning only two, though he was also a poor free-throw shooter at UConn. For his career, he knocked down just 55.8 percent of his 3.1 free-throw attempts per game, so it’s not like he projects to be an all-worldly shooter even though he’s “shown flashes” as a shooter during his pre-draft workouts.

One of my biggest rules of thumb is not to be completely sold on shooting leaps if you don’t consistently see them in-game in college; you won’t know everything about a player until they’re tired.

Projection: Top-5 pick, won’t fall outside of top-10

There was some buzz about Clingan being a No. 1 overall pick, but I don’t think that will be the case with the Atlanta Hawks winning the lottery.

I have a top-5 grade for him, but it may be difficult to find a clean fit for Clingan outside the top-5 if it’s not Washington at No. 2. Charlotte and Memphis are two teams to look out for, unless a team is willing to trade into the top-5 or top-10 for Donovan Clingan if he begins to slide.

He may not be as versatile defensively as Alexandre Sarr or a few of the other bigs, but he will be a player who can change the calculus of a defense. I think there’s value to that, which is why I’m high on him despite his lack of vertical pop. If you surround him with enough functional athleticism and complementary spacing, you should be in a great spot. But that’s something every team is trying to accomplish, not just a team in the top-5/10.

***

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