Donovan Clingan NBA Draft Stock: Where Could UConn Star Land?

Donovan Clingan (left) could have a Top 10 spot in the NBA draft.

Getty Donovan Clingan could have a Top 10 spot in the NBA draft.

He is, like his counterpart in Monday’s NCAA championship game, an enormous big man who can change the game with his paint presence. And, also like his counterpart Zach Edey of Purdue, Connecticut star big man Donovan Clingan—all 7-foot-2 of him, with a 7-foot-7 wingspan—has a murky future when it comes to moving on to the next level.

Just don’t tell that to Boilermakers coach Matt Painter, who sees a long road ahead for the Huskies star. “Clingan is really good,” Painter said. “He changes the game defensively, but offensively he’s a good player, too. He’s just going to keep coming. He’s going to be a fabulous player. He’s got 15 to 20 years in front of him.”

Around the NBA, though, folks are split on how good Clingan can be as a pro. At age 20, he still has some upside, and though his size and general lack of athleticism might limit his ceiling, he is seen as a better prospect than the 7-foot-4 Edey.

“He is enormous, he has a good feel defensively, he is really productive in his minutes,” one Eastern Conference coach said of Clingan. “I have watched him a lot, and he is impressive. There’s limitations on him because of his footwork, but he moves fairly well for his size and he can block shots, control the paint. He is not going to be your No. 1 option but he can be a starting center with the right fit.”

Donovan Clingan Averaged 13.1 Points as a Sophomore

Clingan was a key role player for last year’s NCAA champs, and has taken on a bigger load this season. He is averaging 13.1 points, 7.1 rebounds and 2.5 blocked shots. But he is not a shooter, having taken only eight 3-pointers in two years in Storrs.

Clingan also shoots just 58.0% on free throws.

One Western Conference scout is not sold. “He probably goes in the late lottery, but this is not a good draft, so you have to bear that in mind,” the scout said. “He is a late first-round pick in a lot of drafts. This draft, OK, he could get into the 10-15 range. That might be too high. I can’t see using a Top 10 pick on him, though.

“The shooting is not terrible, I am not as worried about that. He has gotten better as a shooter and he was more of a shooter in high school. I think you can teach him to go to the 3-point line and shoot 35 percent, like a lot of NBA guys do, (Nikola) Vucevic, (Jusuf) Nurkic, Brook Lopez. I just worry about him defending out in space, and getting his offensive game polished.

“For me, he is a bench guy, your seventh or eighth man.”

NBA Draft Stock Depends on Shooting

But perhaps the problem comes when evaluating Clingan in the short term. Based on what he has done at Connecticut, sure, his game does not translate well to the NBA. Some, though, believe it is a matter of time before he can learn to make NBA adjustments and get better in today’s pro game.

“He needs a year, to make him really what he can be,” the East coach said. “Really get him working on that shot, you can shorten up his stroke some, make his mechanics smoother. He will get better making decisions in the paint, when he gets stuck in screens or pulled out to the perimeter.

“It takes patience. No team wants to send a Top 10 pick to the G League but a year down there might be just the right thing for him. He could be a really good starting center if he is developed the right way.”

So where does he land? “If I am him, I’d like to go to a situation like the Raptors, where there are offensive weapons and you can just be the fourth option, fifth option, focus on what you do best in a rebuilding situation,” the East scout said.

“The Bulls, too, right around that 9-10-11 area. That’s a good spot for him. Back up Vucevic for a year or two, then I think he would be ready.”