Brooklyn Nets: Nic Claxton could play impactful role in playoff push

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JANUARY 20: Nicolas Claxton #33 of the Brooklyn Nets (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JANUARY 20: Nicolas Claxton #33 of the Brooklyn Nets (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /

Brooklyn Nets big man Nic Claxton couldn’t have returned from his injury at a better time, as small-ball center Jeff Green’s shoulder contusion made him the default backup behind DeAndre Jordan for their matchup against the Sacramento Kings.

While Sacramento is as cold as cold can be right now, they have plenty of offensive talent, which could’ve been problematic for the former Georgia star and No. 31 overall pick.

Rather than allow Marvin Bagley III to dominate the game, Claxton excelled, showing why Marks used a draft pick on him.

Claxton recorded five points, one block, and one rebound in 13 minutes of action. He was at his best on the defensive end, using his athletic ability and long wingspan to contest, which is exactly what the much-maligned Nets defense has failed to do this season. 

Claxton has earned rave reviews from his teammates due to his raw talent and tenacity, and he could put those skills to use as Brooklyn’s top reserve center.

Nic Claxton could solve the Brooklyn Nets’ size issue

While Claxton did shoot two threes per game during his final year in college, the Nets picked him because of his similarities to Jarrett Allen. Both of them are skinny rim-runners that can contest shots on one end and sky to the rim in transition on the other end. Claxton started to show what he’s made of against the Kings.

Perhaps what was most impressive about Claxton was his ability to switch onto guards, a trait Jordan noticeably lacks. Even with studs like De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, and Tyrese Haliburton to contend with, Claxton showed he can stop all three of them should they try to drive into the lane.

Claxton offers the same height as Jordan, but he can move his feet better, get higher up to contest shots, and potentially finish outside of the restricted area on offense. If the Nets want to sit Jordan down for a while and opt for a more up-tempo lineup during the course of any given game, Claxton gives them that flexibility.

Claxton needs a lot of development before he’s ready to become a complete offensive player. However, the role he’s in with the Nets right now is perfect for his development. Just defend, run the floor, and finish at the rim, and the other stuff will come along incrementally. With some solid depth at center, the Nets look ready to make a run for the title.

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