The Brooklyn Nets looked like they are ready for the regular season to begin in their preseason conclusion against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Offensively, the team looked as good as ever, and James Harden will do an excellent job stepping in for the missing Kyrie Irving. On the defensive side of things, the team was swarming all over the ball and they looked like they could cause some real problems there.
While Harden has never been known as one of the better defenders in the NBA, he was swarming all over the court and has become a real pest later in his career. While he’s not on the same level as somebody like Patrick Beverly, he’s getting there.
When it comes to the big men, the Nets are a bit short at the position following the trade of DeAndre Jordan, but Nic Claxton has filled in admirably.
In fact, he’s made a very bold claim about his defensive prowess heading into the season.
Claxton Considers Himself an Elite Defender
At 22 years old, the center is already putting himself in elite company by considering himself to be among the best defenders in the NBA.
“I feel like I’m one of the best defenders in the league,” he said.
It’s quite a quote, and it seems to be something that New York centers like to say about themselves. The difference between Claxton and Mitchell Robinson is that Claxton’s going into the season completely healthy and he’s ready to compete.
Through his two seasons in the NBA, Claxton has been developing nicely as a shot blocker, and a 6’11”, he’s also proven he can lock down the paint. Like Robinson, he was also a second round pick, which means he might have a bit of a chip on his shoulder and he wants to prove himself.
He’s not just a dominant defender around the rim, but he’s also able to switch out and take on guards too.
“And it’s something that I’ve gotten a lot more comfortable with being able to do,” he said via the New York Daily News. “[Defending] guards is something I did in college.”
At this stage in their careers, Claxton is definitely the most versatile out of the bunch consisting of himself, Blake Griffin, Paul Millsap and LaMarcus Aldridge. As a result, there will be a lot asked of the young center, but he seems ready to deliver.
How Are The Nets Looking?
Even without their star point guard Kyrie Irving, the Nets appear ready to compete for an NBA Championship. A recent projection has them finishing as the fourth seed, but if they keep on playing at a high level like they did in the preseason, then there’s no reason they can’t be better than that.
Losing Irving is a big blow, but with Harden and Kevin Durant to help soften the blow, the Nets are well-equipped to deal with a loss like that. Their first major test of the season comes in the opener against the defending champions Milwaukee Bucks.