|Soph.||6’11.75″ 217||PF/C||Georgia||DOB: 4/17/99|
|13 ppg||8.6 rpg||2.5 bpg||FG: 46%||3PT: 28.1%|
Vertical Leap: 36.5″
Strengths: Size/Length, Agility, Athleticism, Defense, Ball Handling
Weaknesses: Outside Shooting, Efficiency, Position Fit, Strength
Claxton entered college without much hype, mainly being known as a long defender that could move up and down the court. Those things held true during his two years at Georgia but he also impressed on the offensive end as a sophomore season where he averaged 13 points per game. He has good size at over 6’11” and his wingspan at over 7’2″ is ideal for a 4/5 in the league. He moves the floor better than most of his peers in that size range, getting up and down the court at an impressive pace. This ability to run the floor helps him not only on the offensive end but it allows him to be track down players from behind on the fast break for a block. The strongest aspect of his game is on the defensive side of the floor where Claxton has been a star averaging 2.5 blocks per game as a sophomore. With switching on pick and rolls becoming the norm in the NBA, his ability to guard multiple positions has him projected as a high level defender going forward. He is an elite athlete posting the best max vertical leap of any player listed in the center category at the NBA combine with a measurement of 36.5″, which will help him play above the rim, along with his length. Claxton’s offensive versatility fits in nicely with the professional game, and he has done plenty of work from the wing as well as inside of the paint. His ability to put the ball on the floor and and play both inside and outside of the paint should help him earn early minutes as he can potentially get floor time as a small forward, power forward, or center.
There are questions about his outside shot, and the fact he went 28.1% on three point attempts did not help him overcome this weakness. When you consider that much of his potential going forward is based on the fact that he can be a versatile player spending time at multiple positions, he will need to become a more consistent outside threat to reach his ceiling as a professional. Overall his shot mechanics are strong and he does not have any major flaws that need to be worked out, so it will just be about putting in the time and becoming a better shooter. It is not just his jump shots, but his free throw numbers will need to improve as well with Claxton averaging 52.3% as a freshman, and 64.1% in his sophomore season. Claxton struggled with turnovers at times during his sophomore year, making some bad passes or losing the ball forcing the issue when driving to the basket. With that said he is a willing passer, and he did show the ability to assist teammates but he will need to make better decisions with the basketball at the next level. While his versatility is a strength in many regards it is also not always up to the player what role he is used in, even if they have more to offer a team than is being showcased. His shot blocking and athletic abilities make him a prime candidate to be used in a small ball five and while that could be useful to some teams, his true potential can be fulfilled if he is able to find a role that includes more offensive production. This will require improvement on the offensive end, but what role/position he is able to fill for a team will be an important factor for his career at the next level. His lack of strength at just 217 pounds is a concern for some teams, although with Claxton playing on the wing at times and inside at times, he can get away with not being the strongest player on the floor to a degree.
Here is an example of how he can knock down an outside jump shot:
Andrew Rowsey knocks down the triple to give @MarquetteMBB the lead and Nicolas Claxton answers with a three of his own to bring @UGABasketball even heading into the half.— CBS Sports Network (@CBSSportsNet) December 2, 2017
Halftime: @UGABasketball 31 – @MarquetteMBB 31. pic.twitter.com/bKLI5sUQjW
This play shows his high motor and ability to finish at the rim:
Claxton is projected to be a second round pick, and he could go early second or late first round if a team falls in love with his potential. His ceiling as a professional is a starter level big man, playing multiple positions, bringing elite defense and rim protection to go with average offense. The worst case scenario for Claxton is that he is unable to score effectively enough to earn significant minutes on the NBA level leading him to come off of the bench in a limited role mainly being used for his defensive abilities.