"Stat Just Happened" is our new series where we'll pair an important stat with how it actually unfolded on the floor. Our aim? To answer key questions, uncover hidden truths and peel back the curtain on why some numbers matter more than others.
Today, Memphis Grizzlies rookie Brandon Clarke takes the spotlight.
According to NBA.com, that's how many points per possession Brandon Clarke is averaging as the roll man in pick-and-rolls this season.
Why is that noteworthy? It ranks Clarke in the 95th percentile in terms of efficiency. There are only 11 players in the entire league who have been more efficient than the Canadian as the roll man this season, a list that includes the likes of Brandon Ingram, Landry Shamet, Avery Bradley and J.J. Redick, perimeter players who don't generate much of their offence on those plays.
Clarke, meanwhile, has scored a total of 172 points as the roll man this season, the 19th-highest mark in the league. It's been his primary source of offence, with him scoring a higher percentage of his points as the roll man (23.7 percent) than on spot-ups (20.4 percent), in transition (18.0 percent), on cuts (13.5 percent) and on putbacks (11.6 percent).
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What's impressive about Clarke is that he's already a versatile finisher on rolls to the basket, all of which starts with him being an incredible leaper. He might be undersized at 6-foot-7 with a 6-foot-8 wingspan, but the speed and explosiveness with which he gets off the ground allows him to play much bigger than size. He can catch lobs over defenders, finish through contact and he's athletic enough to adjust his shot midair when challenged at the rim.
All of that gives Clarke a high floor as a roll man, especially when he's paired with Ja Morant, a pick-and-roll dominant guard who can score and pass with the best of them. The more attention defences have to pay to Morant, the easier it is for Clarke to make himself available in the paint. Sometimes it's that simple.
It helps that Clarke is in constant motion when he doesn't have the ball in his hands, making him the beneficiary of a lot of easy buckets. And he has even more space to work with when he's sharing the frontcourt with Jaren Jackson Jr., a 6-foot-11 centre who is taking 6.3 3-pointers per game this season and making them at a robust 39.7 percent clip. With Jackson drawing his defender out of the paint, it puts Clarke's defender between a rock and a hard place. Provide too much help, and Clarke will sneak behind the backline of the defence for a layup or dunk. Don't provide enough, and Morant will be gifted with a free lane to the basket.
Where Clarke begins to differentiate himself from other players at his position is with his touch, specifically on floaters. It's not a shot many power forwards and centres have in their arsenal, but it gives Clarke something he can go to when defenders drop back to prevent him from getting all the way to the basket.
As Peter Edmiston of The Athletic wrote, "It was a shot [Clarke] focused on in preparation for his rookie year, knowing that his incredible athleticism would have defenders worried about his drives to the basket, leaving him room to operate in the mid-range. Combine that with his ability to quickly spring straight up in the air and you've got a recipe for a guaranteed open shot."
He's been incredibly efficient on those shots, too. According to Cleaning The Glass, Clarke is shooting 53.0 percent from floater range, which is where more than a quarter of his field goal attempts have come from to this point of the season. That ranks him in the 96th percentile among players at his position.
In other words, Clarke's floater is already automatic.
Clarke doesn't pick-and-pop much - almost all of his 3s have come off of spot-ups and he rarely shoots from midrange - but it's hard to believe that he won't eventually add that to his game because he's already proven to be comfortable spacing the floor out to the 3-point line.
If so, it would only raise Clarke's ceiling as a roll man, a scary thought considering that one key number...
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