Nic Claxton’s improved play forcing Steve Nash to keep him in Nets’ rotation

Nic Claxton
Brooklyn Nets forward-center Nic Claxton knocks the ball loose from Memphis Grizzlies forward Brandon Clarke during the first half at FedExForum.
Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

From possibly traded to impact player and everything in between, Nic Claxton has been in one of those categories at some point this season.

Right now, the third-year big man is in the latter over his last 10 games for the Nets. Claxton has taken advantage of added playing time when LaMarcus Aldridge was out and even with the veteran healthy, Claxton’s play has forced Nash to keep him in the rotation in a meaningful way.

In Tuesday’s win over the Detroit Pistons,  the 22-year-old shot 4-of-5 for 11 points and was 3-for-4 from the charity stripe while logging 18:15 on the floor. It was another successful night for Claxton, who has shot 77.2% from the field and averaged 10.3 points per game over his last 10 games.

Claxton has been an asset at both ends of the court, boasting a team-best defensive rating of 103.7 and an offensive rating of 111.6 since the NBA All-Star break. He has a block in each of his last three games and entering Tuesday had at least one steal in five consecutive contests.

“Just the consistency on both ends of the floor, but he’s thinking right now,” Kyrie Irving said about Claxton’s play. “He’s thinking at a high level the way we need him to and he’s just picking up his effort, and it’s showing. We just want him to continue to do that, but to reach the next level we’re trying to get to we just have to remain patient.

“And understand that he’s still learning on the fly, but when he’s playing with us there’s some high-level talent that will help that process go a little quicker.”

The third-year Net has had plenty of ups and downs over the course of his time in Brooklyn. Injuries have plagued his time in Kings County, causing hiccups over his first two seasons and then dealing with a non-COVID-related illness earlier this season.

Claxton also dealt with a few other injuries during the course of this year, but he began to make waves earlier in the season when he started to get more consistent playing time during the COVID outbreak.

It seems that he has continued to make strides now that he’s back in the Brooklyn lineup regularly. Even his free throw shooting has improved, shooting 69% in the month of March from the line and 73% over his last five games.

The success has forced Nets Steve Nash to make some tough choices with his rotation. LaMarcus Aldridge has been available for Brooklyn’s past two games, but has not seen any action.

Starting center Andre Drummond has been a force to be reckoned with on the floor, especially in the rebounding department. He collected 13 on Tuesday against Detroit and marked the third consecutive game he was in double digits in rebounds.

Coupled with Claxton’s play, finding the right time to get Aldridge back into the rotation has been a hard task for Nash.  If Claxton continues to play at the level he has those decisions won’t get any easier for the Nets coach.

“Honestly, I don’t know,” Drummond told the Daily News ahead of Tuesday’s game. “The rotations here have been different, so I don’t know how they really want to run the show when it comes to that. I know LA’s ready. I spoke to them today. I guess last game was just (his) first game back.”