Nets ready to match all contract offers from Nic Claxton

Nic Claxton didn’t start a single game when the Nets were eliminated from the playoffs, but he increasingly conquered the center position. And the networks are reportedly keen to match any offers for the restricted free agent, which seems to fit the way they want to play perfectly.

While veteran Andre Drummond started every game he played in the blockbuster deal of James Harden and Ben Simmons at the close of trade since arriving from Philadelphia, Claxton had essentially ousted him when the Nets were swept out of the playoffs by Boston.

The center is believed to be targeting a deal in the $35 million range over three years. He’s not expected to get anything more than the mid-level exception from teams like Charlotte or Chicago, according to The mid-level non-taxpayer exemption is expected to be $10.2 million.

The Nets would like to pass and can even give Claxton up to four years and $55 million if they inking him before June 30. Or they can just wait and see what Claxton gets on the open market and have 48 hours to adjust.

Nic Claxton dunks the ball.
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

Drummond himself – an unrestricted free agent – had conceded that the Nets would not be wise to let Claxton go. And when he discussed what the Nets need in a center, Stan Van Gundy – who broadcast the conference finals for TNT – sounded like describing Claxton to a T.

“This list works well. Now you need to find a 5. You need a size that fits the way you play,” said Van Gundy. “The guy doesn’t have to be great. You can find someone out there with the minimum. It’s about fit.

“If you want to change everything, he has to be a guy who has to be a replaceable defensive type and you need a guy who can get up on the boards and things like that. Besides that, he just has to be a pick and roll guy. There are a lot of insults around him. But I think they have what it takes to be a good squad.”

The 23-year-old Claxton’s greatest asset is his versatile, switchable defense, capable of defending 1-5. Both Drummond and veteran LaMarcus Aldridge — another unrestricted free agent — are more comfortable in case coverage, while Blake Griffin is undersized. The latter pair was out of rotation at the end of the season.

Drummond started but saw his game time cut from 11:30 p.m. in Game 2 against Boston through 3:30 p.m. in Game 3 to just 3:36 a.m. in the final. On the other hand, Claxton averaged 10.5 points, 6.3 boards and 2.3 blocks in 24.5 minutes against the Celtics.

Nick Claxton

“We just had the feeling that Nic was our most productive center on both sides,” said coach Steve Nash right after the end of the season. “He did a lot for us on both sides and I thought that’s why I think Andre’s minutes were limited.

“Nic made such a big impression on us with his athleticism, foot speed and length on defense. Protects the rim. We can switch. He also has speed in attack, flies in pick and rolls, dives hard, touches the glass. … He’s given us a lot over the past few months.”

If the Nets keep Claxton, it remains to be seen what their stomach is for Bruce Brown’s signing. But Nets owner Joe Tsai has committed to paying a luxury tax, and they’ve slashed their tax bill by about $35 million since last offseason: from $130 million before the Spencer Dinwiddie trade to $110 , before dropping James Harden to around $96-$97 million. Nets ready to match all contract offers from Nic Claxton


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