Nic Claxton was one of the Brooklyn Nets' few bright spots during an otherwise bleak 2022-23 season. The 24-year-old emerged as one of the NBA's top perimeter-defending centers while making significant strides as a rim protector.
Claxton tied Defensive Player of the Year Jaren Jackson Jr. for the league lead in stocks (steals + blocks) and finished with the NBA's fourth-best defensive rating, via Statmuse. Yet, when it came time to select the All-Defense teams, Claxton's name was left off, and he hasn't forgotten it entering 2023-24:
“I went from being top three in the Defensive Player of the Year voting to, at the end of the season, nothing at all. When Kevin (Durant) and Kyrie (Irving) left, it was like my name just fell off the map,” Claxton said at Nets Media Day Monday. “It makes my blood boil. I was obviously robbed of the All-Defensive team, not even saying Defensive Player of the Year. My numbers were amazing. I passed every eye test. I know you can say it was my first year doing it, but I held down the whole defense.”
Nic Claxton says he was "robbed" of being on the All-Defense team last season and his name disappeared once KD and Kyrie were traded:
"When KD and Kyrie left, it's like my name just fell off the map. It makes my blood boil… My numbers were amazing, I passed the eye test. I… pic.twitter.com/W47Bok8kP1
— Erik Slater (@erikslater_) October 2, 2023
Claxton will anchor the defense for a Nets team that placed a premium on length and versatility this offseason. Brooklyn swapped out aging shooters and defensive liabilities in Joe Harris, Patty Mills and Seth Curry for young, versatile athletes in Dennis Smith Jr., Lonnie Walker IV, Darius Bazley and Trendon Watford.
The new-look roster posts an average height of 6-foot-6 and an average wingspan of 6-foot-9. Brooklyn has eight players who ranked in the 80th percentile or better in defensive estimated plus-minus last season, per dunksandthrees.com. That includes two former Defensive Player of the Year candidates, Mikal Bridges and Ben Simmons, alongside Claxton.
Claxton is using his All-Defense snub as motivation as he looks to build upon his breakout season in 2023-24:
“It's definitely motivating. It's an even bigger chip on my shoulder, and I don't even need that,” Claxton said of his snub. “I'm just ready to be there for my team, to prove to everybody and myself who I am as a defender and player in this league.”
Claxton's talents will be on full display for voters and front offices this season, with the former second-round pick set to hit unrestricted free agency next summer. Spencer Dinwiddie has been a vocal supporter of Claxton's skillset since Brooklyn drafted the Georgia product in 2019. And Dinwiddie believes Claxton is in line for a significant payday if he recreates his production from last season:
“He’s in a beautiful position,” Dinwiddie said. “Really it’s going to be a situation where he’s just got to do his job. He’s going to get $100 million just from doing his job.”
“He’s in a situation where even if he s***t’s the bed, he’s still going to get like $70-80 million. The only way he really f***ks up his contract is if he tries to do too much, because if you do that and start saying, ‘I’m going to score 20’ or something like that – then they’ll say, ‘Oh, he doesn’t know his role, blah, blah,’ and they’ll blackball you or something. He’s fine. His head’s on right. He’s gonna be good.”