NBA Draft Lottery Team on Track to Steal Key Nets Free Agent

Nicolas Claxton

Getty Nicolas Claxton, Joe Harris, and Blake Griffin chat during a matchup with the Charlotte Hornets.

The Brooklyn Nets have several key free agents set to hit the open market on July 1, which will shape how their roster will look heading into the 2023 season. One key free agent will be their big man Nicolas Claxton, who had another solid season in 2023. Per “Basketball Reference,” Claxton had career highs in points, rebounds, and field goal percentage in the 2022 season. He has increased those averages in each of his first three seasons.

At 23 years old, Claxton has a lot of raw talent but still has significant strides to make to be a consistent starting center. And as a team in win-now mode, the Nets are limited in what they can spend on him. After trading their starting center Christian Wood to the Dallas Mavericks in June, the Houston Rockets are one of the teams that could pursue Claxton in free agency, per Jonathan Feigen of the “Houston Chronicle”. The Rockets currently have the second pick in this year’s NBA Draft.

“Though the Rockets traded Wood because he no longer fit with the rebuild and to acquire a first-round pick, the Rockets are weighing keeping Marjanovic as one of the center options they are considering. They are not expected to keep other players acquired in the deal — Marquese Chriss, Sterling Brown, and Trey Burke,” Feigen writes.

“The free-agent class at center is considered unusually deep with players that might be available to teams, including the Rockets, that are over the cap but can offer the full mid-level exception, starting at $10.5 million. The Nets are considered unlikely to match a mid-level offer to Nic Claxton.”

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NBA GM: Bulls Could Be Suitor for Claxton

Claxton’s youth and upside could lead to him having several suitors when the free agency period officially opens on July 1. One Eastern Conference general manager told Heavy’s own Sean Deveney the Chicago Bulls may be interested in signing Claxton as well.

“The Bulls are going to be pressing for a big man. Maybe they give (Nikola) Vucevic another year, but it was obvious he was a weak link for them,” the general manager said to Deveney.

“They need defense at the rim, that is why you hear them interested in Mitchell Robinson and Claxton, guys like that. Claxton is restricted, but if they make a full mid-level offer, if they go four years and about $45 million, they could make it tough on the Nets to match it.”

Nets Facing Tough Decision With Claxton

The Nets will have a tough decision to make with Claxton. While he could pay major dividends for the future, the Nets have iterated that they are trying to deliver the franchise its first title sooner rather than later. With a specific goal in mind, spending big on a center that is not consistently playable in the postseason may not be the wisest decision for Sean Marks and the Nets front office.

Parting ways with Claxton would certainly be a tough loss for the Nets, but it wouldn’t be all bad. Some of the available cap space could be used to retain other free agents who were bigger contributors to the Nets last season, such as Bruce Brown and Andre Drummond.

The Nets have a lot of tough decisions to make this summer. This offseason could be the most pivotal in franchise history.

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