Nets 2022-23 player grades: Nic Claxton

Nic Claxton didn’t mince words when looking back on his 2022-23 campaign:

“This year I kinda kicked the door down,” Claxton said. “Just showed everybody that I’m here and put my name on the map.”

The 23-year-old’s numbers back up that assessment. Claxton averaged 12.6 points, 9.2 rebounds 1.9 assists and 2.5 blocks, all career-highs. His dominance as a perimeter defender and rim protector, routinely overwhelming the NBA’s top scorers on switches and weakside rotations, garnered league-wide recognition. Claxton tied Jaren Jackson Jr. for the league lead in stocks (steals + blocks) with 254 and finished 10th in the Defensive Player of the Year voting.

The Georgia product’s breakout was not limited to the defensive end. He led the NBA in field goal percentage (70.5), making significant strides as a self-creator and finisher while flashing an array of crafty moves on short rolls, fastbreaks, putbacks and duck-ins.


In addition, Claxton showed considerable midseason improvement as a free-throw shooter. His struggles at the line were a main criticism after he shot 4-of-22 in last year’s first-round series against the Celtics. That included a 1-0f-11 performance in Game 4. Those deficiencies continued early this season with Claxton shooting 47 percent through January. However, he closed the year converting at a 65.3 percent clip after tweaking his form.

Among the most encouraging storylines of Claxton’s 2022-23 campaign was his availability. After struggling to stay healthy the last two years, he started 76 games, logging more minutes than he did in his first three seasons combined.

While Claxton emerged as an elite perimeter defender this year, there are drawbacks to his play style. The Nets’ switch-heavy scheme left them vulnerable on the glass, where they ranked 28th in defensive rebounding for the year. Those struggles killed Brooklyn in their first-round sweep with Philadelphia winning the second-chance points battle 80-22.

Claxton’s performance early in that series left a lot to be desired. While facing a formidable matchup against MVP Joel Embiid, he managed just five points in Games 1 and 2 while struggling to make an impact on either end. He rebounded in Game 3, posting 18 points on 8-of-9 shooting. However, Claxton’s decision to flex after a dunk on Embiid that put Brooklyn up six with 8:49 remaining got him ejected. The play marked a turning point with the 76ers outscoring the Nets 21-10 the rest of the way, essentially ending the series.

Brooklyn’s rebounding deficiencies against Philadelphia underscore the main drawback of Claxton’s game: at just 215 pounds, he struggles to bang down low and rebound against bigger bodies. In an Eastern Conference playoff field that includes Embiid (280 pounds), Rob Williams (237 pounds), Brook Lopez (282 pounds), Mitchell Robinson (240 pounds) and Bam Adebayo (255 pounds), among others, Claxton’s slender frame could offer considerable problems moving forward. The former second-round pick seemed to recognize that reality during his exit interview:

“Things that I want to focus on, definitely getting stronger. Adding some good muscle, that’s big for me,” he said. “That’s going to help my overall game.”

A year removed from Brooklyn nearly trading Claxton to Toronto for a first-round pick at the 2022 deadline, his professionalism during a breakout campaign earned high praise from head coach Jacque Vaughn and general manager Sean Marks. After signing a two-year, $17 million deal last offseason, the big man is under contract for $8.7 million in 2023-24, presenting one of the NBA’s best value salaries.

Overall, Claxton emerged as one of the league’s top defensive centers while showing considerable offensive improvement following an unreliable start to his career. He finished fifth in the NBA’s Most Improved Player Voting. The breakout season offers the Nets a potential building block at center or a blue-chip trade piece this offseason, two developments that would have sounded somewhat far-fetched heading into the season.

Nic Claxton’s 2022-23 Grade: A

The post Nets 2022-23 player grades: Nic Claxton appeared first on ClutchPoints.

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