“Situational Analysis” is a series of articles that seeks to examine the circumstances that most often influence an NBA prospect’s success. Each player will be scored on a scale from 1-10 in four different categories: NBA-specific skill(s), fatal flaw(s), collegiate/overseas/pre-NBA environment, and ideal NBA ecosystem.

Donovan Clingan is a 20-year-old center from Bristol, Connecticut, who averaged 13 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks for the national champion Connecticut Huskies. He is expected to be selected in the lottery in this year’s draft. NBADraft.net currently has him projected at No. 13.

NBA-Specific Skills

Donovan Clingan is big. Huge, even. As long as the rim sits 10 feet above the ground, humans with Clingan’s size will provide serious value on a basketball court.

Standing 7-3 in shoes with a standing reach 3 inches shorter than the rim, Clingan blocks out the sun. Only the most creative finishers can find ways to get the ball near the hoop when Clingan is anchoring a defense.

He isn’t just a big body, either. Clingan has much better feet than you would expect and his defensive instincts are extremely advanced for a player his age. He knows how to best position his enormous frame both as a rim protector and as a help defender on pick-and-rolls.

He averages a blocked shot for every 9 or so minutes of court time, which doesn’t take into account the number of shots that don’t even get attempted because he is in the area. At 280-290 pounds, he already possesses the solid base to hold his ground against even the most brutish post scorers.

While most of his value/upside is derived on the defensive end, Clingan is a solid offensive player, as well, exhibiting nice touch around the hoop and even making some slick passes out of the post. He isn’t a pick-and-pop threat, but he can punish mismatches in the post and will always be a threat on the offensive glass and with tip-ins.

He’ll never be a No. 1 offensive option, but Clingan has the potential to be a game-changing defensive force in the right system with the right teammates.

On a scale from 1-10, Clingan’s abilities as a defensive anchor is a 9.

Fatal Flaws

The NBA is a totally different beast. The best players and coaches pick at every little weakness until it becomes untenable. While Clingan has nimble enough feet to defend high screens in college, it will be an entirely different challenge against the quickest professional ball handlers.

NBA offenses will test Clingan early and often in the high screen. It’s likely that Clingan’s value will be maximized in a team that plays a drop coverage scheme – think of how the Milwaukee Bucks use Brook Lopez – but the best defensive players can play a variety of styles. If Clingan can’t credibly show on high screens or handle himself against small-ball configurations, his defensive impact will be minimized.

It’s also unclear whether Clingan can provide anything beyond second-chance points, given his limited shooting range. Lopez and Marc Gasol were eventually able to add accurate 3-point shooting on high volume to extend their careers. Clingan won’t provide that dimension quite yet. His sub-60% foul shooting makes it seem as if that dimension might be out of reach.

He has also yet to play serious starter-level minutes, so it’s unclear whether he has the stamina to maintain his efficiency over 30+ minutes per game.

On a scale from 1 (not a concern) to 10 (serious hindrance), Clingan’s lateral quickness and limited shooting range rates at an 8.5

Pre-NBA Setting

Clingan was an absolutely sensational high school player for Bristol Central High School, just down the road from the ESPN studios in Connecticut. He posted outrageous stats his last two years en route to back-to-back state Player of the Year awards. He elected to stay close to home and play for coach Dan Hurley and the Huskies.

He emerged as a defensive difference-maker in limited minutes his freshman year (1.8 blocks in 13.1 minutes per game) and made significant contributions to UConn’s 2023 title run. He assumed the starting center job as a sophomore and anchored UConn’s defense during a dominant title defense in 2024.

He wasn’t asked to do anything other than exactly what he excels at, but two NCAA titles in two seasons is tough to top.

On a scale from 1-10, Clingan’s pre-NBA career rates at a 9 – would be even higher if he had played more minutes for the Huskies.

Ideal NBA Ecosystem

Clingan’s draft profile is awfully similar to Walker Kessler’s, who has emerged as a real defensive stalwart for the Utah Jazz. Using our +7.5 draft projection math, Kessler went No. 22, so Clingan could see his name called toward the very end of the lottery.

However, I’m of the belief that Clingan’s draft position could exceed even those expectations, as he has a singular, easy-to-identify elite skillset that many teams in the lottery desperately need. Since nearly every prospect in this draft is a roll-of-the-dice in at least some respect, a team with a hole at center could seek to fill it with Clingan.

Clingan-watch begins at No. 7 with Portland, who might not be 100% sold on the domin-Ayton experience, or with Robert Williams’ health record. Clingan would provide a totally different dimension to a defensively challenged Blazers squad as their promising young guards learn the ins and outs of NBA defense.

There is also a chance that Memphis looks his way at No. 9, as Steven Adams’ health is up in the air. I love the idea of pairing Clingan with Jaren Jackson – each player complements the other one quite nicely.

Oklahoma City could also look in his direction at No. 12. While he doesn’t fit the Sam Presti mold of mobility/playmaking, he could provide a much-needed dose of physicality in a 15-minutes-per-game role behind Chet Holmgren. Clingan could even share the floor with Holmgren in certain matchups.

On a scale from 1-10, Clingan’s situational dependence is an 8. Clingan has a defined NBA role and comes from a winning background, but he needs the right coach/defensive philosophy to maximize his skillset.


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