NBA Draft: Trail Blazers select UConn star Donovan Clingan with No. 7 overall pick

After two truly dominant runs throughout college basketball, UConn star Donovan Clingan is headed to Portland.

The Trail Blazers selected Clingan with the No. 7 overall pick in the NBA Draft on Wednesday night. The 7-foot-2 center is fresh off back-to-back title runs with the Huskies, the first team to pull off the feat in 17 years.

Though both Zaccharie Risacher and Alex Sarr held a clear advantage in the race for the No. 1 overall pick, Clingan was gaining steam in recent days. After Sarr declined to meet with the Hawks, the team narrowed in on Risacher — whom they eventually took No. 1 overall — and Clingan.

Donovan Clingan helped lead the Huskies to a second consecutive national title earlier this spring.
Donovan Clingan helped lead the Huskies to a second consecutive national title earlier this spring. (Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)

Even though he slipped a bit from the top, Clingan is one of the safer prospects available in this otherwise weak draft class for a team looking for help inside. The 20-year-old averaged 13 points and 7.4 rebounds while helping UConn to its national championship earlier this spring, which came a year after he was a key bench player on the 2023 championship team. He looked significantly better physically near the end of his second season with the Huskies, and he did a decent job defending and outlasting Purdue star and two-time player of the year Zach Edey in the title game.

Clingan has already proven himself capable of being a defensive cornerstone. With a near 7-foot-7 wingspan, he can be a rim protector and a rare true center in the league. But his offensive game has only improved in his two college seasons. He’s been a dominant pick-and-roll and inside threat already while being incredibly efficient around the rim. He shot nearly 64% from the field last season.

Clingan should be able to jump right in and anchor the Trail Blazers' defense. But there’s plenty of room for growth for the 20-year-old, whom Dan Hurley didn’t hesitate to compare to a younger Nikola Jokić.

“What we talked to him about was don’t get caught up in mastering the game inside and out,” Hurley said, via ESPN. “We’d show him Nikola Jokić from an offensive standpoint when he was younger. So that Donovan would understand that when Jokić was 19, that wasn’t what he was doing right now. You’re watching what he’s doing right now and thinking I should be doing that right now. Well, that’s not what he was doing [at that age].

“If he was, well f***, he wouldn’t have been drafted in the second round.”