CHICAGO — Hard work is the last thing the Suns would have to worry about if they targeted another frontcourt piece in Gonzaga’s Brandon Clarke with the No. 6 pick in next month’s draft.
Getting better is just about all the San Jose State transfer has done since he started college, and Clarke said Thursday at the NBA Draft Combine that convincing teams of his work ethic has been a top priority during meetings this week.
One such meeting came with the Suns on Thursday. It was particularly exciting for Clarke, a Phoenix native and Ahwatukee Desert Vista graduate, because Clarke watched Suns general manager James Jones play for them as a fan growing up and saw Jones win championships when Clarke was a teenager.
“I try not to dwell on it too much,” he said of potentially getting drafted by his hometown team. “Obviously, I grew up watching them, they were pretty much my favorite team growing up. I’ve kind of thought about it ... anything’s possible.”
Much will be decided in workouts, as teams will get to put his shooting improvements to the test. Simply getting in repetitions from NBA range with the NBA ball has been Clarke’s focus during the offseason so far, he said.
“I didn’t shoot that many 3s last year because I didn’t really feel like I had to for the team,” he said, “but with that being said, that’s what NBA teams need, so I’ve been shooting a lot these past couple months.”
Clarke has not participated in any workouts yet. His first one will be May 20 with Charlotte, with seven more scheduled afterward.
The Suns will have competition for his services, though at No. 6 they sort of control his fate. It would be tough to imagine Clarke getting picked any higher than that.
ESPN has him going No. 11 to Minnesota. It’s a fit many have loved since the draft order started to gain clarity in March. Clarke smiled when he talked about the possibility of playing with Karl-Anthony Towns. He said his interview with the franchise on Thursday went “really, really well.”
Whether it’s Towns or Deandre Ayton in Phoenix, playing the 4 in the NBA even as the league goes smaller will require getting bigger. Clarke measured in at just 207 lbs. on Wednesday after being listed at 215 lbs. this season at Gonzaga.
Clarke said he would “love” to add weight.
“Obviously people in the league are bigger, so I’m going to have to be bigger too,” he said. “There are so many players who have changed their bodies once getting there so I’m not really nervous about that, I’m just really looking forward to playing against bigger guys and better competition.”
Clarke, a consistent mock draft riser over the course of his senior season at Gonzaga, was talking about competition on the court in the pros. He easily could have been talking about the already-fierce competition for his services that will be consummated on draft night.