Everyone needs a boost sometimes, a quick pick-me-up. Maybe it’s roasting your favorite brand of coffee bean first thing in the morning and basking in that glorious first sip, or loading up your Spotify workout playlist and finally crushing out that new personal record on the squat rack (look at you, never skipping leg day).
For the Brooklyn Nets, that boost could be embodied in a second-round draft pick, Nicolas Claxton.
What could prove to be one of the organization’s best-kept secrets — given the Nets’ aspirations and ascent towards the top of the league’s feudal system — is a guy who only played 187 total minutes this past season.
Given the sample size, such a statement appears, well, rather audacious. There is no firm evidence suggesting Sean Marks views the 21-year-old as an untouchable this offseason. If the team goes down the road of trade theatrics and entertains the idea of a blockbuster to acquire that mythical “third star,” he could easily be one demand of an opposing executive given his tantalizing upside.
Or, and hear me out, such a hypothetical never comes to fruition. He remains a Brooklyn Net, which I expect he will for a while, as he blossoms into a legit contributor on a depth chart for a team knocking on Larry O’Brien’s door.
Now to briefly temper lofty expectations and proverbially rain down on my own Claxton parade. It’s unlikely that he’s thrust in the starting rotation or into a larger role—at least early on—but that’s to be expected. He’s played fewer minutes as a Brooklyn Net in his career than Iman Shumpert did in his ever-so-short tenure with the team last season. There is still growing to do. I’m not expecting him to burst onto the scene and produce gaudy stats.
What I do expect, however, is Claxton to build upon his rookie campaign—be it brief—and further cement his role on the rotation during the course of the regular season.
He can play the role of the “high-energy, infectious passion” type of player that’s a blessing for any contender. The guy that makes things happen. He knows that too; Claxton had the following to say following a preseason exhibition last season:
“I just wanted to come out there and affect the game in any way that I could, and I think I did a pretty good job of that. Just using the minutes that I had and making something happen.”
Thus far, terms I’ve used to describe Claxton’s potential role on the team may sound as if I’m selling his skillset short...so let’s correct that impression, too.
Yes, he has tremendous drive and hustle; yes, he can hound the glass on both ends of the floor; yes, he can throw down a viscous putback dunk followed by a primal yell that ignites the crowd and his teammates on the bench (video evidence will be provided), and yes, as former Nets’ head coach Kenny Atkinson mentioned, he has serious upside as a versatile defender—calling him a “Swiss Army Knife” on that end.
Do you guys remember that time he got switched onto Devin Booker out on the perimeter early last season? Yes, I’m aware this transpired in garbage time, and no, I don’t care. Just call him Nic “Clampstan.” Am I right? *crickets.* Hello out there!?!
Nic Claxton holding his own against Devin Booker pic.twitter.com/KBNsmlwmQJ— Nick Fay (@OTG_NICK) November 11, 2019
Though he possesses the intangibles that has already made him a fan favorite and is the type of teammate that is adored in the locker room, the kid has serious skill to boot. He’s got a bag of tricks. He can play like a big guard, but don’t just take my word for it...
Big Guard— Clax (@_claxton33) September 3, 2020
He was utilized frequently as a ball-hander during his two years at Georgia. His team lacked a true point guard, and before a big growth spurt at the end of high school, Claxton had played the 1. So having the ball in his hands isn’t novel for him. His teammates get it...
Will Steve Nash have sets ran through him? That’s a hill I’m not willing to die on at least at this moment in time, but he can push the tempo after a rebound like he did in this following clip.
Though he may have only gone 1-of-7 beyond the arc with Brooklyn this past season, the stroke looks good and he shot 10-of-18 on Long Island where he was encouraged to show off his range. I’ll allow you to invest as much stock as you want into the statistic. Remember how I mentioned his play can ignite the Nets’ bench? Well, take a gander at the following clip.
Oh, before I forget, witness this Kenyon Martin-esque putback dunk that had Ian Eagle animated. Rightfully so.
Shaun Fein, coach of the Nets’ G League affiliate, could not help but sing his praises.
“He does everything. Setting screens, rolls hard even if he is not getting it he is drawing people to give guys open shots.”
Spencer Dinwiddie had already given his verdict, calling Claxton the “second-most talented player on the team.” Perhaps it is wise to take such a quote with a grain of salt, but it’s clear that teammates and the organization, holistically, are high on the 21-year-old.
To be successful on a team with title aspirations next season, Claxton does not have to go far beyond the call of duty. Learning to operate organically within the flow of the offense, making the right reads with the ball in his hands (DeAndre Jordan has taken him under his wing and given him tips on passing as a big), and providing the team with a spark off the bench will likely pay dividends. And because of some salary cap manipulations last July, the Nets will have him through 2021-22 at a bargain basement price.
If two games back in January against the Bucks and Sixers, where he dropped 14 points and six rebounds on 7-12 shooting in the former, and 15 points and four rebounds on six-of-eight shooting in the latter, prove to be an accurate forecast ...there is good reason to be excited about Claxton in the immediate future. Unless you want to give him up for that “third star!”