The Brooklyn Nets seem to want to respond to Nic Claxton’s demands. It’s the right choice.

The Brooklyn Nets’ loudest move at the 2024 trade deadline was one they didn’t make. Trading Spencer Dinwiddie for Dennis Schröder was fine, bringing in another competent but much more feisty point guard with another year under his contract, and while getting rid of Royce O’Neale for a few second-rounders was also the right move in a vacuum, this signaled that they missed their chance to capitalize on its maximum value, because that was the case reported a few months ago, the veteran striker could have scored a first.

But when Brooklyn didn’t trade the expiring Nic Claxton, there was only a little buzz that Sean Marks & co. although it said a lot, in a way that those other two housekeeping moves didn’t: They planned to re-sign the 24-year-old center and felt comfortable about their prospects.

Free agency is still nearly two months away, but for now, it appears the plan is on track. As NetsDaily reported, the Nets are confident they can re-sign the lanky southpaw, with an annual price tag that will be between $20 million and $25 million.

“Through my conversations with executives,” Michael Scotto said on a recent episode of the HoopsHype podcast, “I would say (Claxton) stays around that $20 million per year number. I think $25 million would be his cap number from here on out. »

Brian Lewis of the New York Post agrees, saying the chances of a Claxton reunion are “better than” 50 percent. On the Brooklyn negotiating side, that assessment seems to slightly underestimate the teams’ confidence, whether judging by conversations with people around the organization, or by their content team continuing to promote it, or by the digital billboards still in place around the Barclays Center…

Many fans, however, expressed dismay at the reported $25 million as the high-end result for Claxton’s contract. This is an overreaction.

If he gets there, Clax would be the 10th highest-paid center in the league. A few million less, and he’s tax buddies with Brook Lopez and Clint Capela, while $20 million puts him in the neighborhood of Jarrett Allen, Nikola Vučević and Myles Turner.

Let’s take the second ex-Net on this list – Allen – as a reference point, probably the best player on this list as well. Allen just made the 2024 All-Star team as an alternate. We sorted the comparisons using DARKOone only predictive metric based on box score and plus-minus statistics, considered to have surpassed EPM as the most reliable all-in-one metric in sports…

Of course, any all-in-one metric is just a supporting tool and not the entire kit, but DARKO spits out some obvious truths: Jarrett Allen has become a very good, maybe a great player, but you still prefer to give Nikola Jokić double or triple his money. (And sorry, James Wiseman.)

This also tells an extreme story from Claxton’s most recent season in that he has not matched his production from the 2022-23 campaign. It was really fantastic.

He led the league in field goal percentage, shooting 80.5% at the rim and 51.4% from 3 to 10 feet, per Basketball Reference. Not only was Claxton one of the premier lob threats in the league, but he nailed numerous hooks and floaters on nearly three attempts per game, spoon-fed only on occasion…

Yet Claxton was more impressive on the other end of the court, blocking 2.5 shots per game while remaining one of the most changeable centers of the pre-Wemby era. Clax finished 9th in Defensive Player of the Year standings, but was follow up far higher than before Brooklyn’s structural implosion at the 2023 trade deadline.

DARKO is absolutely right, as is his downfall in the 2023-24 campaign. His rim finishing “dropped” to 77%, but the 43.4% he shot from 3 to 10 feet was more telling; those floaters and hooks just weren’t the same weapon for the kid ranked 31st in the 2019 draft.

After Kevin Ollie took the coaching reins, the Nets shifted their offense a little more to the big man, but not enough to dent their ineptitude or his scoring output…

But these basic box score statistics don’t tell the whole story either. Claxton’s results were destined for some regression, but his efforts did not have to follow the same path. Instead, after erasing all concerns about his engine in that ’23 campaign, those concerns returned in ’24, the main reason for his year-over-year decline.

His second and third efforts weren’t always there, especially (not) on the court in transition. And even from night to night or week to week, Brooklyn didn’t know which Clax was going to show up. Could this be the player who threw Chet Holmgren, Jaren Jackson Jr. and Victor Wembanyama down the trash chute? Or was it going to be the guy who got outplayed by JJJ’s replacement in the rematch…not to mention dominating Wemby in the second round?

DARKO seems a little too tough – Clax was never really negative on the ground – but the fall was real.

I’m also not sold on his supposed potential as a “hub” on O, rotating around the perimeter to take dribbles, fake them as well, and play in the short roll. However, Jordi Fernández, based on his quotes about Claxton two weeks ago, believes in his big man’s “ability to play the dribbling and handoff game which, as you know, lately in the NBA is a very effective style. And that helps with ball movement. So when everyone touches the ball and everyone is involved, everyone is happier.

This would be a fascinating mid-career development for Clax, because unlike most talented passing players who dominate in the short roll and around the perimeter, Brooklyn would build around the skill that most players possess. those the big ones are finally missing. What makes Nic Claxton effective with the ball in his hands is his ability to go from 0 to 60 faster than almost any other player his size…

But this driving ability is the icing on the cake of an effective post-hub attack. Once the defense has taken away all handoffs, backdoors and kickouts, can you go to the basket? We know Claxton can, but uh, what about the first part?

To that end, he is a surface passer. Simple reads are made, but the Georgia product scans the ground at a walking pace, with disadvantaged defenders often able to stay one step ahead…

Claxton has more to his game in terms of handling the transition ball, attacking mismatches in isolation, and, yes, continuing to participate in dribble handoffs and faking them as a counter attack. But real flashes of Domantas Sabonis? There are not any.

The fact is that it is not necessary. Brooklyn will pay for it because we’ve seen evidence of what it is, not what it could become. Alternating between decent defender and world-destroying switch-big, he had a top-50 season (probably higher) at age 23. Has he started to regress from his peak at age 24, or has the stench of Brooklyn’s failures that season – in which he certainly played a role – made him a forgivable sin? an aberration ?

Ultimately, it’s fair to demand more of Claxton as a key part of the Nets’ long-term plans… while still paying him. It would not be the first time It is arrived!

Even if the scoring efficiency isn’t the best in the league like it was in 2023, do we value this version of Claxton more than the one we saw in 2024, a season that is open with Ben Simmons clogging the paint. on one side and Brooklyn playing exclusively drop defense on the other, then continued with Spencer Dinwiddie – the team’s only reliable shot creator – quitting not-so-quietly, and eventually ended with a two-month tour of team-wide misery. ? I do!

At least enough to argue that the Nets can’t afford to let Claxton shell out more than $5 million, if that’s what it comes down to. Brooklyn might be aggressive elsewhere this summer, but they aren’t competing for a title next season. And in two years, $25 million will be 16% of the salary cap. Look at the type of players who represent between 16% and 20% of the selection this season; none of them even sniffed the All-Star Game!

And functionally, there’s almost no difference between paying Claxton $20 million and $25 million for a Brooklyn team that’s miles away from having to worry about those kinds of margins. Pay him about 10% more than what you consider to be market value in the first year of the contract? For a non-competitor (and even a contender), this is absolutely a better alternative than losing him for nothing, especially when Brooklyn could remain under the luxury tax anyway!

Even if Sean Marks makes the former first-round second-round pick the 10th highest-paid center right now, Clax will drop a spot or two in that expensive category each year of the contract.

Yes, I’m a little more concerned about Claxton’s impact than most, and more willing to write off this season — in which he still finished 58th in the NBA in a composite weighting of eight catch-all metrics, according to Andy Bailey of Bleacher Report – as a brief slowdown….

I do not believe Claxton is at the center of Brooklyn’s rebounding woes – neither in his coverage shifts nor in his too much the Conservatives dropped their coverages to start the season, despite being a top 5 defensive rebounding team.

For Fernández, it will be about finding the right balance with Brooklyn’s defense, a problem every coach faces, but he could lean on Noah Clowney at the 4. Not only does Clowney provide positional size and blocking shooting, but there is already proof of it. -of concept by playing a larger and defensive 4 next to Claxton. Forget the incredible 107 defensive rating Brooklyn posted with Clowney-Claxton’s front court this season, how about the 111 DRTG they posted with Claxton, Kevin Durant and Claxton on the court last season, in a much larger sample?

“I think Nic is the number one priority for us,” Marks said after Brooklyn’s season ended. ” There is no doubt. We hope he will be a Net for a very long time. We hope we can continue to build around it, and build with it, and so on.

Brooklyn’s GM has the right idea here, not just because of Claxton and Clowney’s defensive potential in a league moving back toward versatility and size. The local Net – the team’s biggest developmental success since moving to Brooklyn – has already produced at a high level, in multiple team contexts. No player is safe from a disappointing 2024 season, but we know what Nic Claxton can do, and that’s very valuable.

It’s time to pay it forward.