The Brooklyn Nets were one good coach and a true stopper away from reaching their true ceiling.
That finally became a reality this season after they fired Steve Nash and replaced him with Jacque Vaughn, who didn’t hesitate to unleash Nic Claxton‘s potential.
Claxton had already shown glimpses of greatness earlier in his career, but he was often stuck behind DeAndre Jordan in the rotation just because he was friends with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.
Coach Nash also favored small-ball sets early and often, leading to Claxton playing a limited role.
But now, the 23-year-old out of Georgia has finally established himself as their man in the middle, taking a step forward and proving to be one of the league’s most dominant interior defenders, as pointed out by Doug Norrie.
Nic Claxton isn't just a fun story, he's a total star
Let's check in on his NBA ranks
Blocks per game (1st)
True Shooting (1st)
Offensive Rating (4th)
Defensive Rating (4th)
Defensive Win Shares (6th)
Win Shares (14th)
— Doug Norrie (@DougNorrie) January 30, 2023
The weeks go by, and Claxton’s rise doesn’t stop.
He’s posting career-bests all over the board, outplaying his draft stock as a second-round pick, as well as his $8.5 million a year salary.
Of course, Kevin Durant continues to be the Nets’ most important player, and Kyrie Irving is his perfect offensive complement.
But the Nets had struggled on both ends of the glass and failed to keep their rivals out of the restricted area before Claxton finally took over, so he’s now their third-best player, even ahead of Ben Simmons.
Claxton was a bit of a late bloomer, and some were even ready to give up on him and find him a trade suitor before this season.
Now, he could and should be an All-Star.NEXT: NBA Writer Pleads For Change With The Nets