Gonzaga’s Brandon Clarke to declare for draft

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Brandon Clarke has skills NBA teams like to see in a wing: He defends well and is an efficient scorer. Those things have real value in the NBA when paired together.

Which is why Clarke is projected as a first-round pick, likely in the mid-teens, a bubble lottery pick, heading into the NBA Draft Combine and workouts.

Clarke is declaring for the draft, it was announced through the Gonzaga Basketball website on Wednesday.

“First, I would like to thank my family for their continued support of my basketball career,” Clarke said in a statement. “I would also like to thank Coach Few and the entire Gonzaga coaching staff for sharing their knowledge of the game… My teammates, my brothers, I cannot thank them enough. These have been the best two years of my life. Lastly, I want to thank the best fans in the country, Zag Nation. I will always be proud to be a Zag!

“With the support from our coaching staff and my family, I have decided to chase my dream of playing in the NBA.”

Clarke can return to Gonzaga if he pulls out of the draft by May 29 (10 days after the draft combine). At the combine, Clarke will get feedback to help him make a decision.

That feedback will be to stay in the draft. Clarke is a lock first-round pick, which means guaranteed money. Those guys should stay in.

Teams understand who Clarke is as a player — a forward who can defend two through four and do it well, is a good shot blocker, and plays with a high motor. He averaged 16.9 points a game shooting a crazy-efficient 68.7 percent from the floor, which impressed scouts. That jump shot needs more range (he shot 26.7 percent from three), and his handles still need work to be NBA ready.

While Carke will get drafted behind teammate Rui Hachimura, Clarke may be the better long-term prospect because of how he fits in the modern NBA.