The Trail Blazers’ memorable postseason run might be over, but the the 2019 NBA Draft is right around the corner. Portland’s President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey currently has the No. 25 pick in the draft at his disposal and he will look to supplement the Blazers’ roster with a talented prospect in the latter stages of the first round. Today we look at Georgia Bulldogs center Nicolas Claxton.
- Height: 6’11.75”
- Weight: 216
- Wingspan: 7’2.5”
- Shooting Hand: Left
- Position: C
- Age: 20
- Projected draft range: 19-32
- PTS: 13.0 | Per 40: 16.4
- REB: 8.6 | Per 40: 10.8
- BLK: 2.5 | Per 40: 3.2
- AST: 1.8 | Per 40: 2.3
- FG%: 46.0
- 3P%: 28.1 (64 attempts)
- FT%: 64.1
Equipped with a unique skill set for a center, Claxton shined in his second season with the Bulldogs. Freed from his responsibilities in the post, the South Carolina native served as Georgia’s primary facilitator for long stretches. Claxton is unlikely to undertake that big of a role in the NBA, but his precise passing should unlock his potential on offense. In transition and out of the high post, his court vision projects to impact the game positively.
Defensively, Claxton is an emerging shot blocker capable of defending in space. He routinely made the right shifts to get into position to alter shots in the paint and on the perimeter.
Despite Claxton’s massive improvements, noticeable holes still remain in his game. He must add bulk to his frame if he hopes to deliver the same impact in the post. Even in SEC play, Claxton struggled to maintain position in the paint. Without added muscle, he could struggle to rebound effectively against traditional post players. Offensively, Claxton is an unproven shooter outside of the paint. He made strides to improve his three-point shooting, but he is far away from reliably spacing the floor.
Former Hoosiers head coach Tom Crean arrived in Athens to unlock Claxton’s upside as a playmaker. The Bulldogs showed significant signs of improvement, but still amassed a pedestrian 11-21 overall record. Claxton recorded eight double-double performances and produced a 25-point outburst in a late-season victory over Florida. His improvements as a sophomore were rewarded with a place on the All-SEC Second Team.
Claxton’s dad, Charles, also flourished in Georgia’s basketball program. Charles Claxton was drafted in the second round of the 1994 NBA Draft by the Suns.
Claxton rocketed up draft boards with a strong showing at the NBA Combine in the pre-draft process. His diverse style on both ends of the court should attract suitors that are selecting outside of the lottery. Armed with the tools to be effective in crunch time, Claxton should blossom into a role player on a contending team. Even if he doesn’t reach his full potential, Claxton’s passing will provide reserve units with a safety valve capable of handling facilitator duties.
The Trail Blazers are hopeful that Zach Collins is the versatile post player of the future, but adding a player of Claxton’s ilk would bolster their post rotation for the foreseeable future. The former Bulldogs standout needs time to develop, but Claxton’s passing could give Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum a reprieve when Portland faces intense playoff-style defensive pressure. The Blazers have pressing needs at forward, but Claxton’s burgeoning versatility would be tough to pass on at No. 25.
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