Rival Exec Dishes on Nets’ Breakout Star: ‘He Is Not Untouchable’

Nic Claxton, Brooklyn Nets

Getty Mikal Bridges #1, Cameron Johnson #2, Royce O'Neale #00, and Nic Claxton #33 of the Brooklyn Nets.

The most pressing issue facing the Brooklyn Nets may be what to do with Nic Claxton.

He is coming off a breakout campaign that saw him average career-highs across the board with 12.6 points, 9.2 rebounds, 2.5 blocks, and 1.9 assists. He led the league in field goal percentage, finished tied for second in blocks per game, and, at just 24 years old, there is reason to believe he still has room to grow for the former No. 31 over pick in the 2019 NBA Draft.

The Nets are keeping an open mind in the final year of his two-year, $17.2 million contract, per a rival general manager speaking with Heavy Sports NBA insider Sean Deveney.

“They would move off of him if the right deal came around, sure. He is not untouchable or anything like that,” the GM tells Heavy Sports. “If they could get an upgrade, they’d move on from him. He has a good amount of value around the league.”

Claxton’s name came up at the trade deadline in rumored discussions with the Toronto Raptors.

“They’re talking to the Nets and…they have been adamant about getting Nic Claxton back in any kind of deal with Brooklyn,” reported Ian Begley on SportsNet New York’s ‘The Putback’ podcast on February 8. “They’re playing hardball with Brooklyn and you’d expect them to. They don’t have to trade OG Anunoby. They don’t have to trade Pascal Siakam.

Claxton finished just outside of the top 10 in the voting for Defensive Player of the Year and joined teammate Mikal Bridges in the “others receiving votes” category for their respective positions.

The peril for Brooklyn could manifest in two ways: they pay him and he regresses or they hold off on paying him and he plays at an even higher level this coming season, driving up the price.

Sean Marks High on Nic Claxton’s Potential

“He did everything they asked of him,” the rival GM tells Heavy Sports. “Improved defensively, as a rebounder, got a little bit better offensively, worked harder, was more professional.”

Nets general manager Sean Marks was effusive with praise for Claxton during his exit interview on April 25, one day after the Nets were swept out of the postseason for the second year in a row while Claxton had his fair share of issues dealing with Philadelphia 76ers star Joel Embiid in their first-round series.

To his credit, Claxton – listed at 214 pounds – said he will “definitely” work to get stronger over the offseason during his exit interview.

The Nets might also be ready to take the patient approach after another failed super team.

Nuggets’ Bruce Brown: Nets Front Office ‘Wanted Me Back’

One of the unheralded stars of this postseason has been former Nets utility man Bruce Brown, now of the Denver Nuggets and part of that last Nets super team. After a career year scoring – 11.5 points per game – in the regular season, Brown is averaging 12.2 points, 3.9 rebounds, 2.2 assists, and 1.1 steals in the playoffs helping the Nuggets reach the Eastern Conference Finals.

Brown broke into the league with the Detroit Pistons but broke out with the Nets, particularly last postseason with a 14.0/4.8/2.8 line .568/.429/.800 efficiency in the first round. He was allowed to leave in free agency that summer, perhaps against the front office’s wishes, says Brown.

Brown went on to heap praise onto the Nets front office, including Marks specifically.

“I mean, front office-wise, they’re great. They’re amazing,” Brown said. “I love Sean Marks, JP – [Nets assistant general manager] Jeff Peterson.”

Peterson was up for consideration for president of Monumental Basketball, overseeing operations for the Washington Wizards and Mystics (WNBA) before the position went to Los Angeles Clippers general manager Michael Winger.

Brown pointed to a fractured locker room once James Harden was traded as part of the reason that team never really came together as a unit. One year later, only five players – Claxton, Seth Curry, Joe Harris, Patty Mills, and Cam Thomas – remain from that team and Curry is an unrestricted free agent this offseason.

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