CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Nic Claxton is certain. The manner in which the Nets center is playing and speaking suggests that he will be named to the NBA All-Defensive team or better.
Claxton commented on the Nets’ 10-game victory streak, the longest in the NBA this season. Therefore, it is good. Our assurance is unquestionably at an all-time high. We must simply keep the momentum going.”
When Jacque Vaughn took over as head coach, the Nets (23-12) were 2-5 and 13th in the Eastern Conference. Since then, though, they have gone 21-7 to move up to the second-best record in the league. Claxton stated that it is neither a hoax or a coincidence; it is the new Nets.
Claxton remarked, “It is sustainable.” “Our roster’s talent speaks for itself. The talent we possess, the players who can score at will, the shooters, the defense — particularly the defense we’ve been playing recently — and how consistent we’ve been. Therefore, it is unquestionably sustainable to remain locked in game by game. This is our obstacle.”
While the Nets’ confidence has been bolstered, Vaughn noted that Claxton is now playing the most confident and competent basketball of his career.
“It is evident in the manner in which he carries himself. “He has a swagger that extends to the floor, which is pretty great,” Vaughn said. “I believe he believes he has a tremendous impact on the defensive end of the court, whether it’s six blocks, 10 rebounds, or something else.
“And then the comfort level on the offensive end, where Kyrie [Irving] and Kevin [Durant] will find him, or the ability to flash to the elbow, play the split game, pivot, and make a right-hand runner over someone. Simply satisfied on both ends of the floor.”
The Nets are confident heading into Saturday’s game versus the Hornets. Claxton’s contributions have been undervalued while Durant and Irving garner the majority of attention.
He has publicly stated that making the NBA All-Defensive Team, or even being named Defensive Player of the Year, is a personal objective. He is confident that his play will change that.
When a goal is contingent on the success of the team, it is always advantageous for both the person and the team, Claxton added.
Claxton began Friday leading the league in field-goal percentage (74.3%), and he has certainly worked on his offensive approach, as evidenced by his excellent kick-out passes, great body control for difficult baskets on the move, and 50 percent success rate on hook jumpers.
As Vaughn alluded to, Claxton’s offensive synergy with Durant and Irving has improved. However, his work on defense has actually distinguished him.
Claxton possesses quick hands and the unique ability to guard positions one through five, in addition to the normal center trait of protecting the rim. He leads the NBA in block rate (7.4 percent), is eighth in defensive rating (107.2 according to Basketball Reference), and his combined 101 steals and blocks rank second.
Claxton will need consistency and a lengthy run to earn the acclaim he desires. Claxton’s pursuit of Vaughn’s Nets will benefit Vaughn’s squad.
“As a coach, I embrace it because it implies you have to put in the effort to receive these honors,” Vaughn said. “Therefore, it requires an enormous degree of commitment. That is work on the floor, and that is work off the floor, in order to create nightly. Therefore, I enjoy hearing it since I know there is effort involved.”