Nicolas Claxton, the Brooklyn Nets’ second-round draft pick last June, is stringing together some impressive games in Long Island.
Tune into a Long Island Nets game—the Brooklyn Nets‘ G-League affiliate—and quickly you’ll begin to understand why fans are so high on the 31st overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, Nicolas Claxton. He plays with a high motor; his passion is infectious on the basketball court; he’s a switchable defender, and his skill at his size is tantalizing, though still raw at this point in the maturation process.
And if his recent play in the G-League serves as any indicator, fans should feel justified in their excitement over the 20-year-old.
In eight games thus far (four starts), Claxton’s base stats are surely turning heads. He’s averaging 17.8 points, 7.3 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1.3 blocks on an insanely-efficient 66.7 percent from the field—including 58.8 percent (!) from distance.
You have to note the difference in competition, of course, but don’t rain on our parade, those are some admirable numbers. Especially the three-point shooting efficiency on 2.1 attempts per contest. Am I expecting such levels of production on an NBA hardwood? No. But if he can hang in that semi-respectable 33-36 percent range from the perimeter for Brooklyn, that’ll more than do.
The Nets, outside of Kevin Durant (come on, now), don’t really have anyone at his size—6’10, 217-pounds with a 7’2.5 wingspan—that has his unique skillset. He uses his lanky frame to his advantage when maneuvering through traffic, has a decent handle, and unlike DeAndre Jordan and Jarrett Allen, can probably fade off of a pick-and-roll and knock down 16-18 footers with at least semblances of success.
In the big leagues, he’s held his own when called upon by Kenny Atkinson; hell, he more than held his own against two of the premier teams in the eastern conference, the Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers.
Against the Bucks, he finished with 14 points, six rebounds, and three blocks. Followed by an equally impressive outing against the Sixers just two days later, where he finished with 15 points, four rebounds, and two assists.
From there he served as the Nets’ backup center in Jordan’s absence against the Detroit Pistons, banging down low with one of the more physical bigs the game has to offer, Andre Drummond. He did a fantastic job of neutralizing Drummond in the interior alongside teammate Wilson Chandler. One might say he even outplayed the three-time rebounding champ.
Those string of games made his departure from the rotation all the more confusing. But getting Claxton significant run and experience down in Long Island to hone his craft may have the best long-term effect.
It’s definitely in the realm of possibility that his contributions will be of much significance next season when things get a tad bit more serious once Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving are integrated into the rotation. If Atkinson has no plans to play him in these final 19 games, except out of desperation when shorthanded, him actually seeing court time and getting a feel against what is still hardnosed competition can’t be perceived exclusively as a bad thing.
But with that being said, at some point, you have to take the Ferrari out of the garage.