Can Nicolas Claxton Become the Nets Backup Four?
The Brooklyn Nets have yet to find their groove at 4-6 and the concerns are piling up. Continuing to give minutes to Nic Claxton as the power forward off the bench could give them the spark they need.
Claxton, 20, who was the 31st overall selection in the 2019 NBA draft out of Georgia, has shown glimpses of his potential in sporadic minutes this season. Throughout the early games this season, the question coming from Nets fans was why is Claxton in street clothes on the bench? His unique blend of athleticism, shooting touch and shot-blocking ability were the reasons many fans wanted the rookie to get some burn. The logjam at the center position has been the main reason for Claxton’s limited minutes. The Nets have arguably the best center rotation in the league with Jarrett Allen, DeAndre Jordan and Claxton.
Having depth at this position leaves the team in a good situation if an injury occurs, such as Jordan’s ankle sprain, which caused him to miss the Portland game. As a result of this, Claxton moved up the depth chart and played terrifically in his first game in the NBA. Nic saw 12 minutes of action at center vs Portland and put up an impressive stat line of 8 points and 6 rebounds, thoroughly impressing the coaching staff. Here is what head coach Kenny Atkinson had to say following Claxton’s debut:
With DeAndre Jordan recovering from his ankle injury and re-joining the squad for their next game in Phoenix, Claxton slid back down the depth chart. Most of his minutes came in junk time after Phoenix had blown out Brooklyn early in the 4th quarter. However, we did see a few minutes of Claxton at the 4 which was a sign of Kenny experimenting with his line-ups. Moving forward to the Utah game and we saw 12 minutes of Claxton playing power forward next to Jordan. Although the stat sheet looked very empty for Nic, a larger sample size is required to be able to judge whether the Nets can operate with a big frontcourt.
Unfortunately for the Nets their biggest weapon at power forward last season in Rodions Kurucs has hit a sophomore slump and has been banished to the bench. Kurucs' is averaging a paltry 11.4 minutes per game this season off the bench, in comparison to 20.5 minutes per game and 46 starts last season. Due to Kurucs' poor play and Wilson Chandler's suspension, the coaching staff has had to play numerous players out of position to fill the void. This is Claxton's chance to grab the position by the horns and make it his own.
Kenny Atkinson has been very reluctant to play two non-shooters together on the floor, which is why the recent pairing of Claxton and Jordan comes as a surprise. If this pairing is to work consistently, Claxton will need to develop his mid-range and three-point shooting. His college average of 30% from distance isn't terrible, however, it also isn't going to force defenses to guard him tightly on the perimeter.
For Brooklyn to be successful, someone is going to have to step up and make an impact as the backup power forward, and there’s no reason why that can’t be Nic Claxton.