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FILM STUDY: Is Nicolas Claxton a Gem Hidden in Plain Sight?

The Nets have added Blake Griffin who sees himself as both a “4-man and small ball 5.” Is that going to affect Nicolas Claxton? Matt Brooks looks at Clax’s potential.

Brooklyn Nets v San Antonio Spurs Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images

It feels like centuries ago that the Brooklyn Nets’ frontcourt minutes were up for grabs. Gone are the Noah Vonleh’s, the Norvell Pelle’s of the world. In came –– no big deal –– BLAKE GRIFFIN for the price of dang near Free.99 (okay, $1.2 million, but who’s counting?!). And who knows, other reinforcements, like maybe even one of the greatest rebounders of all-time, could be on the way.

But with all that jazziness of new names and faces, a familiar one made a strong case for integral rotation minutes going forward...

Nicolas Claxton, Brooklyn’s enticing second-year big man, laid down two masterful performances leading up to the All-Star break: A 17-point, 3-block night in 17 minutes against the San Antonio Spurs on March 1st, and a 16-point, 8-rebound night in 16 minutes versus the Houston Rockets on March 3rd.

In this video, I went over the intricacies of Nicolas Claxton’s game –– on both ends of the floor –– and discussed how the 21-year-old could separate himself from the group in Brooklyn’s suddenly crowded frontcourt.

0:49 Special defensive potential: Nicolas Claxton offers a solution on defensive that none of his other big man counterparts can offer: true blue interchangeability on defense. The name of the game in modern basketball is switching freely on defense, especially as teams progress deeper and deeper into the postseason. Just ask some of the most recent NBA champions, the Los Angeles Lakers, the Toronto Raptors, and the Golden State Warriors. As of now, the Nets have mostly stuck to running a defense that switches 1-through-4 with DeAndre Jordan hanging back in the paint to bat away opponents that shake free for layups. But with Claxton in the fold, the Nets can do the unthinkable; they can switch at every single position. His fluidity as a defender separates Clax from the pack. He’s a rarity in the NBA.

7:35 A simplified, yet effective role on offense: Unlike his duties on defense, in which he tends to pick up players of all shapes and sizes, Claxton’s role as an offensive player is far more stripped down to the necessities. For a team like the Nets with a borderline hilarious amount of offensive talent, Claxton is mostly asked to do three things well: set screens, roll hard to the basket to stress enemy defenses, and finish with athletic prowess. Though he’s still working to improve in the finer details of his offensive assignment, Claxton has already shown incremental growth in the 5 total games he’s played as Brooklyn’s rim-runner.

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