3. Defensive versatility
In the modern NBA, defenses switch on almost every ball screen. This means that centers are forced to stay with point guards in the pick-and-roll game more often than not.
We’ve seen elite interior defenders like Rudy Gobert and Steven Adams struggle in the postseason because they aren’t adept at guarding on the perimeter. If Nicolas Claxton possesses one elite trait, it’s his ability to switch onto point guards and shooting guards.
This Twitter exchange between SBNation’s Kristian Winfield and Ricky O’Donnell summed that up perfectly:
This type of defensive versatility is not only rare among centers, but there are only a handful of NBA players at any position that can guard 1-5.
Claxton’s defensive versatility is on full display in his highlight package courtesy of 2for1 Hoops. At the 0:26 second mark, he gets switched onto Bryce Brown, one of the best guards in the country. Claxton uses his quick feet to stay with Brown as he drives and then utilizes his length to reject the shot.
As good as Claxton is as a perimeter defender, he is even better defending the rim. He topped the SEC with 2.5 blocks per game and recorded either a block or a steal in 31 of his 32 games as a sophomore.
Guys that can both protect the rim and switch onto smaller players on the perimeter are few and far between, even in the current NBA. The Brooklyn Nets must be thrilled they found one at the top of the second round.