Why Nicolas Claxton Needs to Be the Nets’ Primary Center

The Brooklyn Nets‘ recent acquisition of LaMarcus Aldridge shocked many throughout the NBA community. The Nets, who were already overwhelming favorites to come out of the East, somehow got even better. Many casual NBA fans could not understand why the Nets needed another center. They already have DeAndre Jordan who is a name many NBA fans are familiar with, and they recently signed Blake Griffin!

Well, it isn’t 2015 anymore. Real, authentic Brooklyn Nets fans know that the Nets’ best center is actually 21-year old sophomore Nicolas Claxton. The 6’11” lefty from the University of Georgia was drafted 31st overall by the Nets in the 2019 NBA Draft. His rookie numbers weren’t eye-popping, but Claxton still showed flashes during his brief rookie season. Claxton unfortunately had to deal with multiple injuries for nearly a year which included a hamstring, shoulder, and knee injury.

Fast forward one year to this past January when the Nets acquired James Harden. We all know the team had to part ways with their best big man in Jarrett Allen, which meant DeAndre Jordan would become the team’s primary center. To the casual NBA fan that would seem okay, but Nets fans who actually watched the games knew this was going to be a problem. The Nets needed Nicolas Claxton to return as soon as possible.

DeAndre Jordan is Not Good Anymore

It is that simple. DeAndre Jordan should not be a starting center in this league anymore. We all remember Lob City Jordan when he was on the Clippers. He was flashy, he was exciting to watch, and most importantly, he was the defensive anchor for those Clippers teams. During his time with the Clippers, DeAndre Jordan was a 1x All-Star, 3x All-NBA team member, and a 2x All-Defensive team member. He was among the best centers in the league.

Unfortunately, as he’s gotten older he has lost a bit of his athleticism. Don’t get me wrong, Jordan can still throw down alley-oops. His offense isn’t the problem. It’s his defense. Jordan seemed to rely exclusively on his athleticism when he was younger when it came to his defense.

If you watch current DeAndre Jordan, he isn’t even close to the player he once was. He refuses to contest shots, he isn’t a great interior presence, and his pick-and-roll defense is subpar. Jordan for the season has a defensive rating of 114.6! That is horrendous for a primary center!

Nicolas Claxton on the other hand may be Brooklyn’s most versatile defender. Not only is Claxton an elite shot-blocker, averaging 1.5 blocks in only 19 minutes, he can also guard the perimeter effectively. In a recent game against Portland, Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum shot 10-36 combined in a game against the Nets. Nicolas Claxton was the one defending them both in crunch time. For the season overall, Claxton has a defensive rating of 100.5! That’s elite!

In the first 6 games where Nicolas Claxton was closing games over DeAndre Jordan, Claxton had a net rating of +12.5 per 100 possessions. Do you know what DeAndre Jordan’s net rating per 100 possessions during those 6 games was? -27. That’s right, NEGATIVE 27! For the season as a whole, Nicolas Claxton has a net rating (offense and defense combined) of +15.1. DeAndre Jordan’s is only +0.1.

There isn’t even a debate for who the best center on the Brooklyn Nets is. It’s Nicolas Claxton. He deserves to start and close out games.

The Rest of the Nets’ Big Man Depth

While Nicolas Claxton is clearly the best center on the team, where does DeAndre Jordan fit in as a backup? The Nets’ recent acquisition of LaMarcus Aldridge wasn’t made for no reason. Brooklyn brought in Aldridge to potentially take DeAndre Jordan’s minutes. The Nets know they cannot rely on DeAndre Jordan having heavy minutes once it’s playoff time.

Look at the game yesterday against Minnesota. Jordan started the game for the Nets, but he only ended up playing 12 minutes. Nicolas Claxton, Blake Griffin, Jeff Green all got more minutes than him at the center position. Once LaMarcus Aldridge is available to play, DeAndre Jordan may not even touch the court.

Blake Griffin has been great in his limited role with the Nets, playing with effort and intensity in the backup PF/C role. Jeff Green could honestly start for the Nets at the PF spot, which would move Kevin Durant back to his more natural position at SF. Green’s ability to stretch the floor as a big man has been vital to the Nets’ success. LaMarcus Aldridge gives the Nets yet another five who can stretch the floor.

It’s pretty obvious what the Nets want at the center position. Someone who can stretch the floor that plays with defensive effort. DeAndre Jordan is the only big man they currently have who doesn’t do that.

Interesting Decisions to Make at the Center Position

Steve Nash needs to realize that Nicolas Claxton is this team’s best center. As stated before, Claxton should be starting games for the Nets and closing them out. DeAndre Jordan has not played well enough to be the team’s primary center. He has been gifted the role because he is Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving‘s close friend.

When it comes to the rest of the Nets big man depth, Jeff Green should be in real contention to start. Moving Kevin Durant back to his primary position at SF would clear a lot of questions when it comes to the bench. Blake Griffin as the backup PF and LaMarcus Aldridge as the backup C would both be ideal for the Nets. DeAndre Jordan would likely be the odd man out in this scenario.

Egos will play a factor in how this matter will be resolved, and it will be interesting to see how it plays out. Griffin has already sacrificed since he’s gotten to the Nets and Aldridge will likely do the same. We will have to see whether DeAndre Jordan is willing to make the biggest sacrifice out of anyone. Claxton’s impact cannot be ignored any longer and his playing time should not be the one that takes the hit.

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