At the time when it’s harder to defend, or at least that it’s more complicated to show off at the back, there have been some players who shine despite everything on that side of the pitch. The defending It has always been an area where Interiors They had a lot to say and at this historical moment the whole frame of a team is shaped by the big ones. The aids, the strategy in the direct block, the protection of the rim, the rebound rules… Everything starts from this axis which is the centre and this signals a team’s defensive capabilities.
Until Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving joined forces brooklyn nets everyone expected them to automatically fight for the ring. However, they weren’t even close to being able to aspire to it. Among the many reasons behind this is a very interesting one, which has to do with his defense, one of the worst in the NBA since 2019 and which has systematically opted for an auto-change system. Steve Nash was clear about the what, but he lacked the how and never had the right players for it. Years later Jacques Vaughan seems to have hit the switch, taking advantage of the team’s improvement, yes, but also using a young man who largely explains the Nets’ success this season.
Your name, Nicholas Claxton, someone who has barely been talked about this season, but is one of the big guys responsible for Brooklyn’s step forward in 2022-2023. Such is the impact of this 23-year-old that he is the second most likely to win the award defender of the year right back Jaren Jackson Jr. And it’s not for less.
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Among the interior spaces of the defensive volume, Claxton He is the third-least successful in allowing his opponents at paint with 59%, ahead of Myles Turner (58.4%) and Jaren Jackson Jr (53.6%). What unites him with the Grizzlies figure is how he extends that impact farther from the rim, a key aspect when evaluating any interior defenseman today.
|Player||% middle distance hit||% triple front||% triple angles|
|Jaren Jackson Jr.||33.2%||35.8%||35.3%|
What is most sought after today in a centre It’s his versatility, that is, his ability to switch brands with someone who is faster or shorter and not be too exposed. Claxtonunlike other interior hitters like Gobert, it can come out of the paint and handle it with ease. This season, the Nets point guard is allowing 0.86 points per possession in transition situations according to inStat, while in clarifications he ranks in 75th percentile according to NBA statistics. Yes, Claxton He is the player in the entire NBA who defends the most distances (2.5 per night)so allowing just 0.78 points per action makes his ability and ability to get out of these unscathed all the more remarkable. mismatches.
However, it’s the board where the Brooklyn player handles himself best, since that’s where he applies his 2.20m wingspan. This forward-bodied midfielder is a master of deflections, passes and shot-blocking and can finally do so within a system that benefits him. And no, the numbers don’t lie, just watch some of his matches to see that his impact is real and tangible:
Claxton is largely responsible for the Nets being among the 11 best defenses in the NBA when last year they were among the 11 worst. with him on the field they have the best offensive ratio of the entire team at 110.5, what would equate to being the fourth best team in the league if projected over time. And what about when he sits on the bench? That number rises to 112, right where Brooklyn ranks overall.
Additionally, in terms of on/off court impact, he’s only ahead of Kevin Durant in a similar volume of minutes. While the star has +6.1 net score when he plays for -2.1 while not, Claxton is hot as second best at +5.5 and -1.0.
It has long been said that what the Nets really needed to win was a top-notch interior, something that Claxton’s appearance erased with the stroke of a pen. His step forward justified how long it took to get hereas well as the firm commitment Sean Marks made to give him the confidence to be the centre team owner. In the past, the former Georgian has been guilty of inexperience and immaturity on the court. He arrived at the wrong time for help, overstepped his defensive responsibilities and committed too many fouls during his time playing.
That slow progression, that trial and error is now paying dividends and explains a lot of Brooklyn’s success along the way.
In the race for the individual prizes of the season, the availability of the candidate, i.e. how many games he plays, counts as much or more. While Jaren Jackson Jr. He is a solid contender and the favorite to win the best defender award, his injury-proneness can work against him, as it did with Draymond Green last year. In contrast, Nic Claxton has missed just three games all season, is second in blocks per game and is the player who takes the fewest hits against his opponent in the entire NBA (41.6%).
He has everything in his favor to surprise, he just needs a chance.
The views expressed here do not necessarily represent those of the NBA or its organizations.