NBA GM asks who will be more impactful defensively: ‘Rudy Gobert or Donovan Clingan?’

Peter Dewey
4 Min Read
Matt Blewett-USA TODAY Sports

One NBA general manager reportedly recently wondered if University of Connecticut star big man Donovan Clingan will be more impactful defensively than Minnesota Timberwolves star Rudy Gobert.

Gobert, a three-time Defensive Player of the Year, is heavily favored in the latest betting odds to win his fourth Defensive Player of the Year award of his career. The general manager certainly is giving Clingan a ton of credit for his play at UConn the last two seasons.

“Clingan’s dominance in the Big East championship game and the NCAA tournament has NBA teams asking just how high he could be drafted thanks to his late-season surge after recovering from foot injuries that plagued him early in the campaign,” ESPN’s Jonathan Givony and Jeremy Woo wrote. “He has upside to tap into with his perimeter shooting, which is a possible part of his game down the road. (The Milwaukee Bucks’ Brook Lopez didn’t start shooting 3s until he was age 28.) One general manager asked ESPN recently, ‘Rudy Gobert or Donovan Clingan?’ regarding who will be the more impactful defensive player, which highlights a college player being compared to a three-time NBA defensive player of the year winner.”

This season, Clingan is averaging 12.9 points, 7.5 rebounds, 2.5 blocks and 0.5 steals per game for the Huskies. The sophomore center has seen extended playing time compared to his first season at UConn where he played behind now-NBA player Adama Sanogo.

Even as a freshman, Clingan averaged an impressive 1.8 blocks per game despite playing just 13.1 minutes per game. This season, he’s seen his minutes rise to 22.1 per game, and the blocks numbers for the big man have increased as well.

In ESPN’s latest mock draft, Clingan cracked the top three, a sign that his stock is rising as the Huskies chase their second national title in as many seasons.

Clingan has dominated in the NCAA Tournament, especially in his most recent game against the University of Illinois in the Elite Eight. The UConn big man finished that game with 22 points on 9-of-13 shooting from the field, 10 rebounds, three steals and five blocks.

With the NBA general manager already comparing Clingan to one of the league’s best defensive centers, it’s clear that he has high expectations for the prospect.

Gobert, a three-time All-Star, has anchored one of the best defenses in the NBA for Minnesota this season. The Wolves big man has led the league in blocks one time in his career and averaged two or more blocks per game in nine different seasons.

The six-time All-Defensive selection is also an elite rebounder, leading the NBA in that category in the 2021-22 season while averaging 11.8 rebounds per game for his career.

It’ll be interesting to see where Clingan lands in the 2024 NBA Draft, especially with his stock rising during UConn’s tournament run. In a draft that is considered to be extremely weak, there’s a chance that Clingan could play himself into the conversation for the No. 1 pick.

If Clingan is able to achieve what Gobert has defensively in his career, the team that ends up with the 20-year-old will likely be very happy.

Share This Article
Peter is a graduate of Quinnipiac University where he covered the MAAC and college basketball for three years. He has worked for NBC Sports, the Connecticut Sun and the Meriden Record-Journal covering basketball, football and other major sports. Follow him on Twitter @peterdewey2.