Former Georgia center Nicolas Claxton is rising up draft boards in the wake of the 2019 NBA Draft on Thursday night. His interesting combination of skills and encouraging pre-draft process has many projecting him as a mid-to-late first round draft pick. That being said, here are the teams that The Red & Black Sports Desk think Claxton would fit in with the best.
With Trae Young and John Collins paving the way, the Atlanta Hawks are creating a young and exciting culture. Claxton could fit right into that as the Hawks have the 17th pick of the draft.
A more practical reason for Claxton’s fit with the Hawks is his defensive potential. The near seven-footer was a top-15 shot blocker in college basketball just a year ago. His ability to switch onto all five positions and his weak side help defense could be just what is needed to pair next to John Collins or stretch power forward Omari Spellman.
If Claxton doesn’t immediately crack into the rotation, it won’t matter all that much. None of the Hawks’ young core of players are over the age of 22 yet and they still have a lot to learn. They have time before the pressure to make the playoffs starts to kick in, and Claxton could be eased into the rotation as he puts more muscle on to match the physicality of the NBA.
The Hawks have six total picks in the draft, so why not take the risk on a player with that type of upside?
Newly-hired Cleveland Cavaliers coach John Beilein will be eager to find answers for a roster in shambles after LeBron James’ departure last summer. With a high lottery pick where the Cavs are predicted to take a guard or forward, Claxton could make a lot of sense as a long-term project center for a rebuilding team with the 26th pick.
Claxton’s dynamism as a grab-and-go type center and his surprising playmaking abilities could be just the unconventinal combination the Cavs need to distance themselves from the past and build on a set of young talent. A good place to start could be with second-year point guard Collin Sexton, Claxton and the No. 6 pick in this years draft.
After shooting just under 30 percent from deep in his sophomore year, Claxton still needs to work on his three-point shot consistency if he wants to become a household name in the NBA. That being said, Beilein and the Cavs could give him plenty of room to grow as they build the roster.
The Boston Celtics have three first round picks, and Nic Claxton could be one of those selections. Again, his versatility both ways allows him to fit into most NBA teams’ systems, but Boston’s scheme fits perfectly for Claxton.
The Celtics defense rides on the ability to guard every position on the court. Claxton has the length and quickness to guard every position and the shot-blocking ability to help out if one of his teammates gets dribbled past on the perimeter. The areas where Claxton needs work are his physicality — which the Celtics are not short on — and shooting consistency. Those two departments are imperative in the modern NBA, but improvements are undoubtedly feasible.
Claxton could spend some time in the NBA G-League honing his existing skills and improving on his deficiencies, as the Celtics would be in no rush to force minutes out of him.