Sean Marks made a bold decision at the beginning of the 2022-23 NBA season when he decided to give Nic Claxton and Day’Ron Sharpe an opportunity to prove themselves for the Brooklyn Nets. Previously they had been considering free agent veteran big men like Dwight Howard and Hassan Whiteside but ultimately decided to see what their young big man could bring to the lineup. Nic Claxton has made the most of his opportunity as the starting center for the Nets. Claxton himself declared on December 17 that his play is worthy of a postseason award.
Claxton: ‘I’m One of the Best Defenders in the League’
“Honestly, I feel like I’m one of the best defenders in the league. I feel like I should be in the talk for Defensive Player of the Year. I feel like I haven’t been getting the respect I deserve,” Claxton said postgame. “We’ve been winning. My numbers are good. I’ve been protecting the rim, guarding one through five. So it’s just me being me, doing what I do, bringing that energy. And it’s great for the team.”
Claxton’s comments came following Brooklyn’s December 16, 119-116 victory against the Toronto Raptors. In that game, Claxton had an impressive 6 block performance while also coming up with a steal, stats worthy of a Defensive Player of the Year award winner. He also had 15 points and 10 rebounds against the Raptors, filling the stat sheet to help his team secure the victory.
The fourth-year pro really has been strong as the Nets’ starting center and quieted any rumors that the team needs a veteran this instant. For the season, Claxton is averaging 2.3 blocks per game, the second most in the NBA behind Brook Lopez of the Milwaukee Bucks.
While Claxton is right that his play this season hasn’t been well-documented around the league, one Eastern Conference executive heralded Claxton’s play this season.
Rival Executive on Nic Claxton’s Season
In November, the NBA executive praised Claxton for his rebounding, defense, and overall play in a conversation with Heavy Sports.
“He has improved in a lot of ways, and it is a shame about his free-throw shooting (40.7%). That is the one area he has to clean up. He is doing a really good job fighting for position down low, getting offensive rebounds, getting put-back points. If he continues to do that, they will be happy with him. When they re-signed him this year, there were a lot of concerns about whether he was their guy going forward at that spot, but he has answered a lot of those questions. They just need him to make his free throws now,” an Eastern Conference Executive told Heavy Sports.
Zach Lowe Also Praises’ Unsung Hero’ Nic Claxton
Not only is Claxton shouting from the rooftops with his strong play, but ESPN NBA Insider Zach Lowe also recently referred to Claxton as the Nets’ ‘unsung hero’ this season for all the work that he is doing defensively and on the glass.
“[T]he unsung hero is Nicolas Claxton. Claxton has been dynamic enough on offense to inspire some faith in Claxton-Simmons lineups — the Nets only road map to viable defense and rebounding. Claxton can corral guards on switches or barricade the rim in conservative schemes; opponents are shooting just 53% at the basket with Claxton nearby. He’s not strong enough to plug Brooklyn’s rebounding leakage, but he is snaring defensive boards at a career-best rate…
On offense, Claxton is a solid rim-runner and lob-catcher with a knack for cutting at the right time. He’s a canny screener, mixing hard hits and darting slips that force switches,” Lowe wrote for ESPN.