The Brooklyn Nets placed a ton of responsibility on the slender shoulders of Nicolas Claxton this season. With Brooklyn adding a number of defensive standouts to help provide support for two elite offensive players in Kevin Durant and James Harden, Claxton’s defensive style of play was deemed extremely valuable.
Claxton started three of the season’s first four games, but has since been shelved with a non-COVID illness. It’s been clear the Nets have suffered without a quality young player at a premium position like Claxton since they constructed their roster with his ability to switch on defense in mind.
And this illness appears to be much more serious than a garden variety cold, as No. 33 claimed he lost significant weight when he was laid up. For a player who already needed to bulk up in order to improve his standing in Brooklyn’s rotation, that’s concerning.
“Yeah, I’m in the ramp-up stage right now,” Claxton told Brian Lewis of the New York Post.
“I’m reconditioning myself. I got sick, I lost a lot of weight.”
At least it sounds like Claxton is finally on the path back to good health.
The Brooklyn Nets miss Nicolas Claxton.
Of all players to appear in at least 25 games and average 15 minutes in 2020-21, Claxton’s defensive rating was in the top 10 across the entire league. Brooklyn was not a good defensive team last year, but they managed to step their game up whenever Claxton was on the floor for large chunks of time.
Claxton may not have the most varied offensive game right now, and his development may have slowed to a crawl as a result of this injury, but that doesn’t mean he’ll be rooted to the bench when he returns. With Blake Griffin not playing at the level the Nets expected from him this season, look for Claxton to be thrown right into the deep end of the pool.
While the Nets are going to lean on their star players in their quest to win a championship this season, they need to make sure they don’t bungle the development of some of their young stars. Doing so could leave this roster looking thin and unathletic over the next few seasons.
At the very least, a healthy Claxton will be able to provide more defensive versatility and acumen than Griffin. If he manages to improve his ability to create offense for himself, Claxton could get right back into the starting lineup and give the Nets a little push as they plow ahead atop the conference.