By the end of last season, Nic Claxton was the starting center for the Brooklyn Nets and his athleticism was a plus on a roster that needed more of it. As a starter he averaged 10.8 points a game on 64.5% shooting, and was a plus defender and rim protector.
Yet there is plenty of buzz around the league that the Nets are not high enough on Claxton to keep him, at least considering the salary and tax levels the team is approaching. Brooklyn had the second-highest payroll in the league last season, and to run it back next season with the same core — meaning re-signing Claxton, among others — could lead to $330 million give or take in salary and taxes. Is owner Joseph Tsai ready to foot that bill?
Other teams think they can poach Claxton.
The free-agent class at center is considered unusually deep with players that might be available to teams, including the Rockets, that are over the cap but can offer the full mid-level exception, starting at $10.5 million. The Nets are considered unlikely to match a mid-level offer to Nic Claxton.
Bleacher Reports Jake Fischer also reported recently that he was not sure how hard the Nets would try to bring Claxton back (unlike Bruce Brown, who the team is “motivated” to re-sign). It is known the Nets talked to Toronto and other teams about Claxton back at the trade deadline.
Claxton is still young and a bit raw, do the Nets think they need more of a finished product than a player still in development?
The challenge for Brooklyn: How do they replace what Claxton brings if they let him walk out the door? There are centers on the market, but a veteran Andre Drummond type is a very different style of center and a different fit from Claxton. Maybe the Nets think they can sign someone such as Isaiah Hartenstein of the Clippers at a lower price and get the same production as Claxton.
Don’t be surprised if the Rockets or another team uses their full mid-level to try and steal Claxton away from the Nets. It leaves the Brooklyn organization with difficult questions about where to spend their money, what the team they are building looks like (can they play Ben Simmons at center like Draymond Green?), and what are their spending priorities?
And all of that with the wild card of Kyrie Irving hanging over their heads.