Amid his breakout season, Brooklyn Nets big man Nic Claxton is finding his voice.
“I just think all five guys just need to do a better job participating,” Claxton said via a video clip posted to Twitter by SportsNet New York after the Nets’ 101-96 loss to the Sacramento Kings on March 16. We all gotta make sure we’re hitting somebody. It can’t just be 2 guys. it needs to be a five-guy effort.”
Sacramento outrebounded the Nets 57-41 including 18-7 in the fourth quarter despite Brooklyn winning the quarter 25-19.
Brooklyn ranks 29th in rebounding ahead of only the Dallas Mavericks. With Claxton on the floor, the Nets rank in the sixth percentile on offensive rebounding and 16th percentile on the defensive boards, per Cleaning The Glass.
They rank in the 7th percentile offensively without him which is a slight uptick but find themselves in the 14th percentile in defensive rebounding.
The Nets also rank 29th in paint points and are dead last in second-chance points.
Claxton finished the loss to Sacramento with 14 boards getting outrebounded by Kings center Domantas Sabonis by seven. Outside of the two primary bigs, the Kings still outrebounded the Nets 36-27.
It has been an issue since even before they traded away either Kevin Durant or Kyrie Irving with only Claxton and backup Day’Ron Sharpe, a second-year player, as the only true centers on the roster. Big-money piece Ben Simmons was operating as the de facto third center but has been out since the All-Star break.
Nets’ Roster Light in the Paint
They had Nerlens Noel on a 10-day contract only to let that expire and signed Moses Brown. But this has been a topic of discussion around the Nets for some time even at the peak of their earlier success with former Nets big man Kevin Garnett chiming in saying they needed to add something for their postseason run given Claxton’s slight frame and the even more unproven depth behind him.
“They still need an anchor, but the Nets flipped a chaotic summer into a great blend of veteran depth and elite talent,” Garnett tweeted after the Nets’ win over the Cleveland Cavaliers on December 26.
The Nets were in the midst of their 12-game winning streak but would lose Durant to a knee injury 13 days after Garnett’s tweet. Less than one month later, Irving would demand a trade with Durant soon to follow and the Nets found themselves retooling on the fly but Claxton had professed his belief in the group they had.
That confidence extended to himself amid a strong All-Defensive bid.
“The better that I play defensively and the more consistent I am – protecting the rim, guarding the perimeter, one-through-five every single night – the better that the team is going to be,” Claxton said, per Brian Lewis of the New York Post. “And me being an anchor defensively for our team, defensively and overall, the résumé and everything should speak for itself.”
Claxton has also not been shy about putting the spotlight on his team this season.
Flipping Ben Simmons Could Bring No. 1 Offensive Option
Simmons is providing little value on the sideline with back inflammation that flared up during rehab for a sore knee. The remaining $78-plus million on his contract over the next two years is also seen as an albatross, one the Nets are ready to move on from.
As challenging as that may be, if they are willing to pay the premium, they might be able to find a bona fide scorer to add to a lineup rich with 3-and-D standouts.
Someone like Zach LaVine wouldn’t get the Nets any closer to being a better rebounding team. But it would give them their most consistent scoring threat off the dribble.