The Brooklyn Nets did lock in Kevin Durant on a long-term contract, and will likely pursue similar extensions with Kyrie Irving and James Harden, but the loss of some of their veteran rotation members could force youngsters like Nicolas Claxton or Summer League MVP Cam Thomas into the spotlight.
Whenever a contending team like the Nets is in need of some bench reinforcements, the easy solution is to look for a ring-chasing veteran. Players that fit that role will likely be willing to accept a lesser role in order to finally earn the title of champion.
That has to be the main reason behind Brooklyn’s interest in Paul Millsap, a former Jazz standout and perennial Hawks All-Star coming off of a four-year stint alongside Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets. Millsap averaged 9.0 points and 4.7 rebounds per game last year, though he averaged double-digits in scoring per game for 12 straight seasons.
At face value, Millsap seems like a solid addition given his frame, shooting, and ability to score in the post.
However, signing Millsap to replace Jeff Green (who ironically chose to sign with Denver this offseason) might actually come into conflict with Claxton, who is primed to eat up even more minutes in his second pro season.
As tempting as Millsap may sound, Claxton is ready for more minutes, and they shouldn’t kick him to the curb to sign yet another veteran.
The Brooklyn Nets need to lean on Nicolas Claxton, not Paul Millsap.
Claxton averaged 6.6 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 1.3 blocks per game in his second season. While that doesn’t sound like jaw-dropping production from the former Georgia star, his per 36 minutes averages show that he is capable of averaging a double-double if given enough playing time.
On offense, Claxton is just a jump shot away from becoming a force that other teams will need to gameplan around. Even in his current state, he is a premium athlete that can completely eviscerate the rim when he gets a chance. As a skinny center or oversized power forward, Claxton has tons of value.
On defense, it’s not hyperbolic at all to say that Claxton is one of the best at his position in the game. The Nets allowed 11.2 points fewer per 100 possessions when he was on the floor, a number that puts him in the 98th percentile across all big men. With the athleticism of a guard and pterodactyl-like wingspan, Claxton’s defensive breakout has plenty of steak and sizzle.
While Millsap can be a somewhat productive defender at this point in his career, his value lies in being able to set screens, finish floaters in the paint, and spot up from 3-point range. His value lies on the offensive end, and the Nets might be more well-equipped on that side of the floor than any team in the league.
The Nets already added their physical low-post presence by signing James Johnson, so Millsap might seem a bit redundant. On the other hand, Claxton has one of the most unique physical profiles of any young big in the game, and the Nets choosing to let him once again waste away on the bench behind Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan would be a miscalculation.
If Claxton is making the strides offensively that the organization expects him to make, he has a much higher ceiling than Millsap. From a versatility standpoint, Claxton can play both frontcourt positions, and with his ability to handle the ball, finish through contact, and defend almost every position on the floor, he is clearly the better option when compared to Millsap.
What will scare Milwaukee and Philadelphia more? A promising young player with untapped defensive star potential or…what is left of Millsap?