Nic Claxton agrees to 4-year, $100 million deal to return to Nets: Report

MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - MARCH 21: Nic Claxton #33 of the Brooklyn Nets goes up for a shot on Jae Crowder #99 of the Milwaukee Bucks during the second half of the game at Fiserv Forum on March 21, 2024 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by John Fisher/Getty Images)
Nic Claxton goes up for a shot against Jae Crowder of the Milwaukee Bucks during the second half at Fiserv Forum on March 21, 2024. (Photo by John Fisher/Getty Images)

Center Nic Claxton has agreed to a four-year, $100 million contract to return to the Brooklyn Nets, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.

The deal came down a day after the Nets agreed to send Mikal Bridges to the New York Knicks in exchange for a haul of draft picks and Bojan Bogdanović.

A second-round pick out of Georgia in the 2019 NBA Draft, Claxton has developed from a lightly used reserve into one of the most productive defensive big men in the NBA over the course of five pro seasons. The 25-year-old averaged 12.3 points, 9.6 rebounds, 2.3 blocks and 2 assists in 29.8 minutes per game in Brooklyn over the past two seasons across 147 appearances, all starts.

At 6-foot-11 with a 7-foot-2.5-inch wingspan and a 9-foot-2 standing reach, Claxton has become one of the league’s premier shot-swatters. He finished in the top 10 in blocks per game and total blocks — and in the top five in block percentage, which measures how large a share of the opposition’s offensive possessions you end with a rejection — in each of the past two seasons. Only Brook Lopez (382) logged more blocks than Claxton (335) in that span; opponents shot just 52.3% against him at the rim in 2022-23, sixth best among 100 defenders to contest at least 200 up-close tries and 54.4% in 2023-24, 13th in a 113-defender sample.

What separates Claxton from a lot of other shot-blocking 5s, though, is his ability to switch screens and comfortably guard smaller players on the perimeter. While his slight 215-pound frame can limit his effectiveness against the league’s burlier bigs, the lithe and lanky Claxton has the foot speed, lateral agility and athletic burst to be able to stick with nimbler guards and wings in space. He’s adept at preventing playmakers from creating open looks, funneling them into traffic inside and using his length to recover and contest from behind:

Claxton occupies a more circumscribed role on the offensive end, using just 15.6% of Brooklyn’s offensive possessions last season and holding the ball for about a minute and a half per game, on average. But while Claxton doesn’t pose too serious a scoring threat unless he’s within arm’s length of the rim, he’s an able participant in the two-man game, finishing in the 90th percentile in scoring efficiency for a pick-and-roll roll man in 2022-23 and tying for 14th in screen assists per game last season despite Brooklyn’s significant lack of on-ball playmaking. And the NBA’s leader in field-goal percentage during the 2022-23 season has the hops and hands to finish what’s served up to him at a high level:

Two seasons ago, when he was manning the middle for a star-studded Nets team with its sights set on title contention, some pundits pegged Claxton as a future Defensive Player of the Year candidate; a disastrous couple of years in Brooklyn took the bloom off that rose a bit. Relatively little of that downturn — marked by superstar defections, head-coach firings, slides down the standings and rapidly descending vibes — had to do with Claxton, though, and a 25-year-old big who can switch 1-through-5, protect the rim and serve as an engine in the two-man game profiles as a pretty valuable piece. And now, we know just how valuable.