The Nets haven’t ever placed two players on the NBA’s All-Defensive Team, but that could change this season. Sure, Jason Kidd appeared regularly on the All-D team in the early 2000s, but Kenyon Martin never made the team, first or second squads, during his time in New Jersey.
Now, though, it looks like both Nic Claxton and Mikal Bridges have a shot at making either the first or second team.
Nic Claxton has been playing well all season long. He’s still the NBA leader in blocks at 2.6 per game and second, behind Jaren Jackson Jr., in “stocks” per game, the combination of steals and blocks with 3,3 per game. He is also tied for first in total blocks and stocks, a measure of his durability, and 10th in rebound percentage. A lot of people, including him, think he is a candidate for Defensive Player of the Year.
And it seems a day doesn’t go by without some new defensive stat where Claxton doesn’t excel...
Nic Claxton has defended BY FAR the most isolation possessions (151). 51 more possessions than 2nd place…— NBA University (@NBA_University) February 18, 2023
Yet, Clax has only allowed 0.78 points per possession guarding ISOs. Unfathomable burden he’s carried this season and he’s completely destroyed opponents all over the court pic.twitter.com/QSfBLLuJCA
And Mikal Bridges showed Wednesday why he was Defensive Player of the Year runner-up and first team, All-Defensive, last season. In a match-up with Jimmy Butler, the Heat’s best offensive player, he was a star at both ends of the court. While everyone rightly focused on Bridges offensive explosion — 45 points, eight rebounds and five assists — he quietly held Butler of 13 point on 36.4% shooting. He also registered two steals and two blocks in his first signature win for Brooklyn. While not a leader in steals, blocks or “stocks,” Bridges is No. 1 in the NBA in miles covered per game on defense, 1.27 miles. In other words, he is relentless. Defense matters to him...
Mikal Bridges after scoring a career-high 45 points:— Erik Slater (@erikslater_) February 16, 2023
"Defense always comes first. I'm still kinda mad that I gave up a couple buckets there... That's just who I am. I just think defense wins championships." pic.twitter.com/eAuGrqRT7j
Jacque Vaughn likes what he sees as the Nets get acclimated to each other on defense. He hopes “D” will be the team’s new identity going forward, not only with Claxton and Bridges, but with Dorian Finney-Smith and Ben Simmons (who was the DPOY runner-up in 2021 and two-time All-Defensive team — 2020 and 2021.)
“Yeah, I thought we really dictate things in the second half,” Vaughn said after Wednesday’s 116-105 win over the Miami Heat. “We didn’t allow them to get to the spots, more deflections in the second half, or turn them over more in the second half.”
Indeed, as our ProfessorB noted, Claxton, Bridges — and Spencer Dinwiddie — are top 50 defenders based on Defensive Plus/Minus ratings. Finney-Smith, Simmons, Royce O’Neale and Joe Harris—are also plus defenders, judging by their DRPM numbers.
There has been some concern that Claxton is getting fatigued. As has been noted, Claxton has played only more minute this year, after 54 games, than he did the entirety of the last two years. 1,568 in 2020-21 and 2021-22 seasons vs. 1,567 going into the All-Star Break.
The 23-year-old is getting a chance to rest during the break although he would’ve preferred to be Salt Lake City. The Nets don’t return to action until Friday vs. the Bulls in Chicago.
- Mikal Bridges offers promise of a Nets breakthrough after their All-Stars bolted - Dan Martin - New York Post Sports+