NBA Free Agent Rumors: Nic Claxton To Have Surprise Suitor In Free Agency

As an unrestricted free agent, Brooklyn Nets rim-protecting center Nic Claxton is in for a big raise this summer from his $8.7 million AAV contract. Yes, the Nets definitely want their defensive stopper back, and it sounds like he does want to return. 

But teams will be coming at Claxton with some large sums of cash, upwards of $20 million a year, and according to a report from Hoops Hype, the Detroit Pistons will be one of those clubs. 

It might sound strange for a team with a young up-and-coming former first-round pick at center in Jalen Duren, but The Athletic's James Edwards says this is a move that wouldn't surprise him:

I think one of the biggest issues for the Pistons this year was lack of rim protection. For all of the upside Duren has—he's already an elite rebounder at 20 (years old), has good touch around the rim, has shown some playmaking stuff here and there—he really has to improve defensively. 

Duren, the 13th overall selection in 2022, averaged 13.8 points and 11.6 rebounds, great numbers indeed for a second-year center. But his blocked shots were less than one per game (0.8). Claxton, on the other hand, averaged over 2.0 blocks per game for the second straight year, while adding 10.8 points and 9.9 rebounds with 2.1 assists for the Nets. 

Edwards says that for the Pistons, struggling to get out of the early stages of their rebuild, with a very-well-paid coach like Monty Williams, "there's pressure to be better sooner than later. They don't have the luxury of what most rebuilding teams do, which is to let their guys develop or give them the opportunity and time to develop... They have to get better and I think Nic Claxton would definitely check a box that they need checked, and that's interior defense."

Yes, big man Isaiah Stewart does defend well, but they need a better "primary option at center." 

Bryan Lewis of the New York Post feels it's a better than 50-50 chance that the Nets will re-sign Claxton, but if Detroit opens the vault, this could get interesting. 

Photo: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports