The opposite sides of the Sean Marks summer – notwithstanding the dual and interlocking crises of KD and Kerry – were pushing Nick Claxton into a two-year deal worth $20 million ($17.25 million guaranteed) and giving an invitation to Utah’s Watanabe camp that wouldn’t be guaranteed. for another three weeks.
So far, so good. Claxton and Watanabe were big deals for the Nets as Claxton was the edge guard and defender the Nets had long believed in and Watanabe shockingly became the best 3-point shooter not only on the team but the league… performer as well.
Neither of them got much attention at the time. Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving were soaking up all the ink and electrons in July and neither was anywhere near a sure thing. Claxton missed more games than he did in his first three years and despite some moments, including an Celtics First round sweep, there were questions about his future. On the other hand, Watanabe was an afterthought. There were those who thought both were strong stakes, but that’s it.
“Yeah, what he offers is unique. It’s rare to have a center that can guard perimeter players, point guards and block shots on the rim, get in there and run the floor. He can play in different ways on both ends of the floor. He’s young and energetic; Kevin Durant told Bryan Lewis after the game after the victory over the Pistons “He is irreplaceable to what we are trying to do.”
Jack Vaughn agreed, saying, “He guards multiple positions for us… coming to the underside, blocking shots, pressing to the rim, and rebounding.” “The games he’s not playing, we miss him; he puts a huge amount of pressure on the other guys — there’s no one else on our team who can do the things Nick does.”
No matter which numbers you choose, Klax has proven himself to be more than just a tough defender. As Lewis notes, “Brooklyn’s net rating of 5.8-plus with Claxton on the court drops to 2.0 — with him off. That 7.8-plus gap is the best of any player in the Nets’ rotation.”
He’s second in the league in blocks (2.4) and block percentage (7.4) after hitting the road with nine shots in his last two games, including his winning goal against Bojan Bogdanovic on Sunday night. His 86 blocks and steals — 66 from the first, 20 from the second — are fourth in the league. Joel Embiid fifth, and Miles Turner sixth. He averages nearly twice as high at 11.6 and 8.6 while leading the NBA in shooting percentage at 74.0, within easy range of the all-time number, 74.2 set three years ago by Mitchell Robinson of the team. Nix. Yes, he still needs to work on his free throws, but he’s only 23 years old.
He’s ambitious too, telling Megan Triplett on Friday, “Honestly, I feel like I’m one of the best defenders in the league. I feel like I should be in the conversation for Defensive Player of the Year.”
Repeat this sentiment to Lewis. “Yes, absolutely,” Claxton told The Washington Post. “I take great pride in defense. My numbers speak for themselves. Eye test, everything, there will be, so I continue to stay solid. This is definitely one of my goals.
“As time goes on, it’s going to show. I’m going to keep doing what I do on a night-to-night basis, and at the end of the day all of this stuff will take care of itself. Defending is a skill, and that’s something I’m really elite at. So it’ll all show.”
Meanwhile, Watanabe was an inspiration for Brooklyn and was as much a fan favorite as he was in Toronto. As the Sporting News pointed out on Tuesday, he hasn’t started a single game for the Nets but finished 11. Jack Vaughn wants one of the league’s best players on the field when times are tough. Stephen Noh writes…
Since his return from injury on December 10, Watanabe has been in the team’s final squad for every match. That’s not all. He finished third on the team behind Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in the fourth quarter minutes.
As reported, the 28-year-old forward is the NBA leader in three-point shooting with a better-than-50% average last month and shoots from angles nearly as good as Claxton overall, nearly 75% after that, Noah reports. That in the fourth quarter, he was the best shooter in the NBA…with a huge gap between No. 1 and No. 2. (Note who else on the net is on the list.)
Yuta Watanabe – 68.4%
Damion Lee 56.8%
Luke Kennard 56.3%
Trey Murphy III with 54.8%
Seth Curry 54.5%
According to the “Clutch Model” devised by the statistician Mike Boy Watanabe ranks 22nd in the league out of 514 players surveyed. In both the Toronto and Detroit games, the Big Three struck out late in the fourth game.
His break moments are not limited to 3-pointers. In the Pacers In the game, he had two offensive tackles late in the game, holding on for the win. And his celebrations were great too.
Watanabe was characteristically humble, telling Mike Scotto this earlier in the month.
“It’s crazy,” Watanabe said of his debut. “I always knew I could shoot, but 57 percent? That’s impossible. I don’t expect to keep that number, but I will continue to shoot with confidence. The reason I shoot so well is because of KD (Kevin Durant), Ben (Simmons), and Kyrie ( Irving).
In fact, it’s the perfect complement to Irving and Durant. As he said of his big shot on Friday, cornerback open three off a pass to Irving who had four, counting them four, Raptors flanking him.
“Everything, everything is easier for me, because I think all three corners I made [Friday] “I was standing there,” Watanabe said. “Like, I wasn’t moving, I couldn’t find a place. Once we got the ball, I ran into the corner, wait, wait, wait and then he gave me great passes. So I’m glad they’re my teammates.”
And vice versa, of course.
Back in the off-season, Marks was getting good marks even in the middle of the seven weeks it took me to solve my two K&K problems. In addition to Claxton and Watanabe, he signed former Pacers players in TJ Warren and Edmond Sumner who didn’t play a minute last year to check minimum deals, and traded for Royce O’Neale without giving up a player in exchange. Markiv Morris keeps things steady and fills in for Claxton. Patty Mills may not be what fans expected him to be, but he brings the intangibles and as he proved on the Pacers, when needed, he’s ready.
So maybe, just maybe, Summer of Discontent (and fall) will work out after all.