Nets’ Fernandez, Marks Call Re-Signing Claxton Top Offseason Priority

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday at his introductory press conference as the Nets‘ head coach, Jordi Fernandez referred to re-signing free agent center Nic Claxton as a “priority” for the team this offseason, per Tim Bontemps of ESPN. General manager Sean Marks went a step further, calling a new deal for Claxton the Nets’ “number one” priority.

“We hope he’s a Net for a very long time,” Marks said. “We hope we can continue to build around him and build with him and so forth.”

Claxton signed a two-year deal with Brooklyn in 2022 that paid him less than $10MM annually. He’s ineligible for an extension due to the short-term nature of that contract, so he’ll reach free agency this July. He’ll be unrestricted since he has five years of NBA service under his belt.

Claxton figures to be in line for a major raise after emerging as Brooklyn’s starting center over the past two seasons. During that time, he has averaged 12.3 points, 9.6 rebounds, and 2.3 blocks in 29.8 minutes per game across 147 starts. The 25-year-old was ninth in Defensive Player of the Year voting a year ago and Fernandez believes he’s capable of finishing much higher than that.

“I believe he’ll be Defensive Player of the Year,” Fernandez said. “For us, he’s a priority in this summer, and the way we can play through him — obviously he’s great in pick-and-roll, he’s quick to the rim, he puts pressure on the rim — but also his ability to play the dribble-handoff game which, as you guys know, lately in the NBA is a style that is very efficient. … So he fits perfectly what we want to do moving forward.”

Marks was also effusive in his praise for the young big man.

“I think he’s scratched the surface on who he could end up being one day,” the Nets’ GM said. “I love the challenge of him being Defensive Player of the Year. Nic and I have talked in the offseasons about similar accolades, Most Improved Player, Defensive Player, All-Defensive team and so forth. So, I think he has the skill set, he has the mind to be able to put himself in those positions if he continues to work and continue to develop.”

Although his previous contract only covered two seasons, Claxton was with the Nets for three years before that, so the team will have his full Bird rights. That gives the front office the ability to go over the cap, all the way up to the maximum salary, to re-sign him. While a max deal is probably unlikely, Claxton is considered a good bet to command at least $20MM per year on the open market and the Nets figure to face competition from rival suitors.

Brian Lewis of The New York Post recently suggested that the odds are better than 50/50 that Claxton will re-sign with Brooklyn, noting that the team has been preparing for the possibility of giving him a substantial raise.

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