The pros and cons of the Houston Rockets selecting Donovan Clingan

Is Donovan Clingan the right choice for the Houston Rockets?
Is Donovan Clingan the right choice for the Houston Rockets? / Mitchell Layton/GettyImages

The 2024 NBA Draft has a bad reputation. This is seen as a weak draft.

We're not sure if we believe in the concept of a weak draft in 2024. It's been a long time since any class failed to yield a superstar player. There are gems in this draft - they're just likely to be hidden.

That's why high-end role players are viewed as high-end lottery picks. Typically, a rim-protecting big man with limited offensive chops like Donovan Clingan of UConn isn't an option within the top 3.

Should the Houston Rockets draft him?

The pros of Houston Rockets selecting Donovan Clingan

Forget about who's on the Rockets roster at the moment. Let's talk about Clingan in a vacuum.

He had a Box Plus/Minus (BPM) of 15.0 in 2023-24. That ranked second in the NBA behind Zach Edey (16.8) in the entire NCAA.

You've already got a counterpoint. We know. Edey isn't seen as a future NBA star, and he outpaced Clingan. Is it possible that size alone portends more success in college than it does in the NBA?

Well, any stat needs to be contextualized. Edey used his outlandish 7'4", 300-pound frame to dominate offensively in college in a way that he likely won't in the NBA. If he does, he'll go down as an all-time draft-day steal.

On the other hand, Clingan did most of his damage on defense. At 7'2" and 280 pounds, that's more likely to translate at the NBA level. We can safely project Clingan is a strong defensive anchor if nothing else.

The argument here is simple. Production at one level typically portends production at the next level. Even if we scrutinized the nature of Clingan's production, it feels translatable in the NBA.

Is that enough to draft him?

The cons of Houston Rockets selecting Donovan Clingan

He (probably) can't play with Sengun. He (probably) can't play with Amen Thompson.

Clingan's ability to defend in space is also a question mark. Drop coverage big men can be finicky. We've seen Rudy Gobert (rightfully, in our opinion) win the league's Defensive Player of the Year award several times only to get schemed out of playoff games.

That's not a tremendous knock on Clingan. The vast majority of NBA players have a flaw to exploit. Still, there are valid questions to ask about drafting a player who can't play with your best player (Sengun) or arguably your player with the highest ceiling (Thompson) who's likely to be exploited on the end of the floor he's supposed to thrive on.

Why can't he play with those guys? Well, Clingan is limited offensively. He's a non-shooter, which makes him a problematic fit with Thompson. If he can't at least survive switches, he won't be able to line up with Sengun on either end of the floor.

So, the Rockets should avoid Clingan.


Houston Rockets face difficult decisions

If the Rockets are keeping their pick, our preference is Reed Sheppard - we won't make any effort to deny that. Still, they could justify grabbing Clingan.

It's not a popular observation to make. It's made this particular author something of a pariah in certain circles. We'll say it anyway: Sengun could be a defensive liability in the playoffs.

Sure, we just said that Clingan could pose the same problems. If he's an elite drop coverage rim protector, there are least schemes that he can succeed in. Sengun struggles in drop, and he also struggles in space.

That's not to say that we'd draft Clingan solely to replace Sengun. It's worth noting that Clingan has been hitting threes in workouts. We know, we know - a lot of non-shooting prospects hit wide-open threes in a wide-open gym.

Still, Clingan may develop into a competent three-point shooter. It is not impossible. Moreover, Sengun has flashed at least some ability to space the floor. It's more likely that his stroke will improve. As long as one or the other can shoot, the Rockets could run a twin towers lineup with the duo for the future.

This points to a broader reason to select Clingan - the future is still unknown for the Rockets. If the Rockets think he's likely to be the most valuable player on the board, they could take him and work out the details later.

Even in a weak draft, you should target the best player available.