Nic Claxton Sends Warning to Nets Amid Playoff Push

Nic Claxton, Brooklyn Nets

Getty Nic Claxton #33 of the Brooklyn Nets.

The Brooklyn Nets have not yet sewn up the six-seed in the Eastern Conference.

“We just can’t have any type of letup,” Nic Claxton said, per an article from Brian Lewis of the New York Post on April 3. “[Sunday] was a good lesson for us, almost losing the game the way we did. At this point in the season most teams are playing for something, whether it’s a playoff spot, whether it’s a certain seed. So just knowing that going into the game and bringing that intensity from the jump.”

Brooklyn came within a one bounce going differently on Kelly Olynyk’s pull-up jumper from losing against the Utah Jazz.

They can fall no further than seventh holding tie-breakers over the Atlanta Hawks and Toronto Raptors while the Chicago Bulls have 40 losses already with just four games to go. A fifth-place finish is also still possible but a potential slide into the Play-In Tournament is on the table as well.

“Yeah, we know where we are,” Claxton said, per Lewis. “We know every game is extremely important. So just taking it game by game.”

According to Lewis, a Nets win combined with a Heat loss would clinch the six-seed for Brooklyn who have the Minnesota Timberwolves in town while Miami is on the road against the Detroit Pistons on April 4.

Claxton has been more vocal in his fourth season, calling for more help on the glass.

The soon-to-be 24-year-old has rebounded nicely from a slump immediately after the Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving trades that saw him average 9.3 points and 9.8 rebounds over the first 12 games after Irving’s trade request and final game as a Net. Claxton has averaged 14.4 points and the same 9.8 boards in the 13 games since.

He has gotten back to his supremely efficient ways shooting over 71% from the floor over these past 13 games after connecting on just 53.5% of his looks during the slump.

Nets-Sixers ‘Would Be on The History Channel’

The Nets have shaken off the doldrums to win four of their last five. But they are 9-7 over their last 16 games and just 11-13 since the trade deadline. And, as it stands they are slated to face off against the third-seeded Philadelphia 76ers in the first round of the playoffs.

Even assuming the Nets hold on to their playoff spot, they aren’t being given much of a chance in the projected matchup against Philadelphia who won all three matchups during the regular season.

“It’s cool to see Mikal Bridges dominating even more than he was the last month with the [Phoenix] Suns,” said The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor during ‘The Mismatch’ podcast on April 4. You got [James] Harden with an Achilles injury right now, he’s limited big time. I’m not saying the Nets would win the series, they wouldn’t. I’d pick the Sixers. Yes, it would be on the Discovery Channel. But there’s some cool stuff to watch.

“It is going to be really cool to see Mikal Bridges as the guy in a postseason series. That’s a different monster than being the guy for the Nets during the regular season…It’s going to be a good barometer test for Bridges to see where he’s really at with his progress that we’ve seen this year, which is very believable.”

Bridges, 26, has become a top-12 scorer since coming over and is doing it on .491/.403/.910 shooting splits.

He’s also adding 4.5 rebounds, 2.7 assists, nearly 1.0 steals, and defending top options.

Nets Future Brighter Without Mikal Bridges, Nic Claxton?

Bridges is locked up through 2026 on one of the most team-friendly deals considering his newfound portability as a de facto Batman or an ideal Robin. Claxton’s future looms as an issue but he still has one more year on his contract after this season.

But this uncertainty has fostered a line of thinking that the Nets would be better off trying to get slightly younger to extend their timeline and maximize Bridges’ value right now.

“While one can’t assume he’s merely a good-numbers-on-bad-team performer, there also isn’t evidence suggesting he can be the focal point for a contender,” wrote Zach Buckley of Bleacher Report on March 28. Even if he is the former, there aren’t reasons to believe the Nets can contend with him any time soon. If someone wanted to pay a fortune to acquire him, Brooklyn might be better off refilling its asset collection.”

The Nets are disincentivized to tank since their first-round picks are owed out to the Houston Rockets through 2027 either outright or via swap options thanks to the trade that brought Harden to Brooklyn in 2021.

“As for Claxton, he’s an elite defender…but he doesn’t have quite enough offense to be off-limits,” Buckley continued citing Claxton’s slump without either Durant or Irving.

Brooklyn is winning right now as Bridges has emerged and Claxton has turned it back on. That alone should make for an interesting postseason and this offseason.