After a relatively quiet freshman season at Georgia, Nicolas Claxton came alive as a sophomore, and gained NBA scouts’ attention, all while following in his father’s footsteps. The father, Charles Claxton, was a four-year center for the Georgia Bulldogs in 1991-1995. The son only played in two seasons at UGA and is now taking his talents to the NBA.
Claxton is a 6-foot-11, 217-pound center/power forward with a versatile offensive attack and extensive defensive skills. In his sophomore season at Georgia, he was named to the All-SEC Second Team while averaging 13 points, 8.6 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.1 steals and 2.5 blocks per game on .460/.281/.641 shooting splits.
At first glance, one anticipates that Claxton’s skinny frame would hinder his ability to box out opponents and get position inside. And although that is true to an extent, he plays with enough aggression and energy that his lack of bulk doesn’t hurt him too much. At the same time, he is agile for such a long player, giving him the ability to play on the perimeter with surprising ease.
At the NBA Combine, Claxton’s speed, agility and vertical tested out very well. Among centers, he ranked first in max vertical, standing vertical and lane agility, third in the 3/4 court sprint, and seventh in the shuttle run.
On the offensive end of the floor, Claxton spends a lot of time on the perimeter, either spotting up or cutting to the basket. When cutting or attacking closeouts, he often finishes with authority, leaping high and scoring with powerful dunks. The lanky southpaw also displays very good body control, and can finish with finesse as well.
In the half court this season, Claxton was dominant around the basket this season, producing 1.3 points per possession (80th percentile), but he expanded his game to be more than just a cutter and inside presence. Though he still has much room to improve as a ball handler, he shined as an isolation scorer off the bounce. He was a willing ball handler in transition, pushing the pace and displaying point-forward potential, though he did struggle with turnovers in the open floor. Additionally, when Claxton could step into his outside shots, he displayed solid form on his jumpers, shooting with a high release and putting good arc and spin on the ball, and although he shot 28 percent from distance this past season, he showed a level of confidence from deep that hints at further improvement down the line.
Though a versatile offensive weapon, Claxton is more known for his defensive capabilities. He slides his feet well and stays in front of guards, while also protecting the rim against drivers. His weak frame limits his ability to push around post players, but his length (7-foot-3 wingspan) is a great tool to counter. This season, the Georgia coaching staff didn’t hesitate to match him against smaller guards, and he fared well against the likes of Kerwin Roach (see tweet below) and Quinndary Weatherspoon.
In his sophomore season, Claxton led the SEC and was tenth in the nation in blocks per game, and was third in the SEC in rebounds per game. He has incredible bounce, timing and length that make these accomplishments possible. Additionally, he contested shots well on both the perimeter and in the lane.
Although Claxton is a raw prospect, his all-around game on both ends of the floor fits the modern NBA and should intrigue NBA teams enough to draft him in the first round. He may spend time in the G-League initially to develop and bulk up so he no longer has to rely solely on his length. That said, his budding skill set, energy, and size will help him earn an NBA roster spot sooner rather than later, and he has the potential to be a very valuable starter for years to come.
|Wingspan:||7-3||Vertical:||31.5 inches (standing), 36.5 (max)|
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- Great combination of length and athleticism, and has the ability to play inside and out on both ends of the court
- Excellent shot blocker, led the SEC and was ninth in the nation this season in blocks per game with 2.5
- In terms of blocks and steals per minute, ranked at the 97th percentile among the prospects tracked by Hoops Prospects this season
- Tenacious rebounder, grabbed 8.6 rebounds per game which was third in the SEC
- Quick off his feet and good vertical; ranked first in max vertical and standing vertical among centers at the NBA Combine
- Versatile defender, who slides well on defense and locks up opposing players
- Very good defending in spot-up situations; ranked at the 66th percentile for points per possession (PPP) allowed
- Outstanding when defending the pick-and-roll ball handler and the player coming off a hand off; respectively ranked at the 92nd and 99th percentile for PPP allowed
- Great at scoring on isolation drives; ranked at the 97th percentile for PPP
- When including passes in isolation, he ranked at the 90th percentile for PPP
- Excelled in cuts to the basket and scoring off put backs; respectively ranked at the 65th and 79th percentile for PPP
- Able to turn with either shoulder in the post; ranked at the 61st percentile for PPP on post-up plays
- When including passes in the post, he also ranked at the 61st percentile for PPP
- Very good scorer around the rim; ranked at the 80th percentile for PPP
- Can score with both power and finesse around the basket; ranked at the 64th percentile for PPP with runners this season
- Improving his jumper and is more confident in his shot
- Got to the free throw line six times a game
- Not yet proficient as a ball handler
- Turned the ball over in transition 18.5 percent of the time this season
- Poor scorer in transition; ranked at the 17th percentile for PPP
- Still developing as an outside shooter; made just 28 percent of his threes this season, and ranked 31st percentile for PPP when shooting jumpers off the bounce
- Has a hitch in his free throw and shot 64 percent from the line
- Spent most of his time in spot-up situations, but ranked below average at the 40th percentile for PPP
- Was average as the ball handler in the pick and roll, ranking at the 45th percentile for PPP
- When including passes as a ball handler in the pick and roll, he was even worse; ranked at the 24th percentile
- Struggles fighting for position in the post due to his skinny frame (217 pounds), and defending post-up plays is not his forte; ranked at the 27th percentile for PPP allowed in the post this season
- Ranked slightly below average (45th percentile) as an overall defender in terms of PPP allowed, struggling the most defending in isolation this season
Sources, Credits, and Acknowledgements: Stats used in our scouting reports mainly come from Synergy Sports Technology and RealGM.com, and occasionally from Hoop-Math.com and Sports-Reference.com. The photo was courtesy of Georgia Athletics. Other outside sources are noted with links to the source.