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Windhorst: Nets ‘dipped their toe’ in trade market for Nic Claxton

San Antonio Spurs v Brooklyn Nets Photo by David L. Nemec/NBAE via Getty Images

Sean Marks has been quiet this season. Too quiet? Other than signing four players to 10-day hardship exceptions, he has made no trades, signed no free agents nor waived anyone since the beginning of the season. Last year, the Nets put 28 players in the black-and-white, a record.

Now, though, with the NBA’s COVID crisis receding and the trade deadline only three weeks away from Thursday, will that last? There’s the rumor that Daryl Morey, GM of the Sixers, has his eye on James Harden. And the end of the Nets bench seems like a fertile ground for minor deals, maybe someone gets waived, someone moves up from a two-way to a standard deal.

But Brian Windhorst, in his Hoop Collective podcast (12:16 mark)Tuesday, suggested that the Nets are thinking about, gauging interest, dipping their toe in the trade market to see what the could get for a starter, one of their best young players, Nic Claxton.

In reaction to a discussion of how the Nets did in the 2021 Draft, a worthwhile endeavor.

“You mentioned Day’Ron Sharpe, so there’s been some chatter through a couple of teams I’ve talked to that the Nets have dipped their toe into the trade market for Nic Claxton,” said Windhorst on his podcast. “In other words, maybe thinking about trading him.

“When I say this, I know I’ll get aggregated for saying it but I know this would surprise some people because they’d say ‘This guy is really valuable defensively. He’s very active.’

“He’s been out recently with a hamstring injury, but he’s a free agent [this offseason].”

Windhorst also called his intelligence more of a “feeling out of the market” for Claxton.

Windy in fact is the second NBA reporter to suggest the Nets are looking at the possibility. Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report wrote this a month ago...

Rival executives believe Nic Claxton could become available, as the Nets quietly gauged his value during the 2021 draft. The third-year forward has performed well for Brooklyn, but ahead of Claxton’s restricted free agency this summer, rival executives believe he could be the outgoing player Brooklyn trades to take back a veteran into either the roughly $6 million trade exception from moving DeAndre Jordan or the $11.5 million trade exception from Spencer Dinwiddie’s sign-and-trade to Washington.

Neither Windhorst nor Fischer attached a name to the rumors, perhaps because none have been mentioned.

What’s it all mean? Both Windhorst and Fischer are quoting other teams’ executives, not anyone inside the Fortress of Solitude, aka the Nets front office. It might be that Marks et al _— and he’s not the only one who takes and makes calls — simply wants to know what Brooklyn could get if he thinks he needs to make a deal to get the Nets over the championship hump.

Claxton, before he strained his hamstring issues 10 days ago, had been playing the best basketball of his career and not just on defense. In January — not counting the game he had to leave vs. the Blazers — the near 7-footer was averaging 13.2 points and 7.4 rebounds and 1.2 steals in 26 minutes while shooting 69. 2 percent overall and a surprising 70.6 percent from the line. Moreover, his confidence has been on the rise as James Harden keeps finding and rewarding him.

Of course, the recent string of missed games reminds fans and pundits of his biggest issue, his lack of durability. He’s only played 67 of a possible 197 games in the three years since he’s been drafted. As Fischer reported, the Nets will have to decide whether to pay him this summer. They could’ve extended him before the season but chose not to. How much of an an improvement would warrant (another) big contract? And would the Nets match a big offer from a rival? The 22-year-old is a restricted free agent.

So in the meantime, we wait. As Bobby Marks noted recently, Sean Marks (no relation) hasn’t been a big presence on deadline day. He’s done most of his damage at the Draft.