The Brooklyn Nets might be dealing with a Kevin Durant trade request, but they still have to make sure they get a competitive roster built in the meantime, and they’ve taken steps toward doing that with a Nic Claxton extension.
The young big man signed a two-year, $17 million extension this offseason that will keep him in Brooklyn beyond his rookie contract, but he still has a lot of work to do if he wants to be a consistent starter.
Claxton started the most games of his career last season, and with Andre Drummond now out of the picture, there’s an expectation that he’ll blow past that 19 starts mark set last year.
Bleacher Report’s Zach Buckley calls Claxton the team’s most underrated player, and believes a breakout is coming for him.
Claxton Taking the Next Step
On a team with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle, but Claxton has been steadily improving, albeit slowly.
He turned in his best season as a pro last season, but as Buckley points out, the first time he crosses the 1000 minute threshold, it’ll be the first time. However, Claxton is already a strong defender and can catch lobs with the best of them, so his potential is there.
“A breakout feels inevitable, and fans may not appreciate how close that could be,” writes Buckley. “He’s already an impact defender both around and away from the basket, and he is a reliable finisher from close-range. If he starts reaching deeper into his bag as a ball-handler and passer, a massive leap might happen sooner than later.”
It’s tough to see centers in today’s game that don’t possess some sort of outside shot, and that’s why Drummond, the league’s best rebounder, struggled to find consistent minutes in the playoffs. Claxton has plenty of time to get that added to his game, and until he does he might struggle to play worthwhile minutes when it counts.
Then again, the New York Knicks resigned Mitchell Robinson to a $60 million contract, so there is a market out there for centers who can’t shoot.
Who Will be With Claxton?
A lineup consisting of Irving, Durant, Ben Simmons, Seth Curry and Claxton looks formidably on paper, but there’s no telling if all of those players will be on the roster once the season rolls around.
Durant has been linked to the Boston Celtics, and while a deal isn’t close at the moment, there is a chance he could be flipped to the very team that eliminated the Nets in a sweep last season.
Irving has been linked to the Lakers, but there hasn’t been a lot of movement on that front in close to a month now. There’s a lot of summer left for the roster to reshape itself, but it’d be nice for the players on the roster to know who their teammates will actually be sooner or later. As of now, they will have to play the waiting game.