For the first time since 2013, a Georgia Bulldog has been taken in the NBA draft. The Brooklyn Nets selected Georgia forward Nicolas Claxton with the No. 31 pick. He was the first pick of the second round in the draft.
Claxton was one of the few bright spots for Georgia basketball last season, as he led the team in points (13.0), rebounds (8.6), block(2.5) and steals(1.8). As a sophomore, Claxton also improved his free throw shooting and free throw attempts per game.
“I knew it was a pretty good possibility I would be picked here,” Claxton said after being drafted. “To be picked here is a blessing and I’m ready to get to work here in Brooklyn.”
When he initially entered the NBA draft waters back in April, he was thought of at best as a fringe first-round candidate. Some even suggested that he should consider returning to Georgia for another season with the idea that he could improve his draft stock for the 2020 class.
But the 20-year old had a standout NBA draft combine where he really flashed his defensive potential. Many mock drafts assumed Claxton had thus cemented his first-round draft status at the NBA draft combine, and thus a guaranteed NBA contract in the process.
— NBA Draft (@NBADraft) June 20, 2019
In May, Claxton bypassed returning to Georgia and playing with likely 2020 lottery pick Anthony Edwards and stayed in the 2019 NBA Draft.
“It definitely wasn’t an easy decision, especially with the situation of all the new guys coming in,” Claxton said after deciding to stay in the draft. “I really wanted to play with those new guys. And I didn’t have a lot of closure from this past year. It feels like the season just ended, and I really didn’t know when I was going (leave for the NBA). But after testing the waters and getting the feedback I got, I feel like I made the right decision. And I’ll be able to go back and get my degree later on.”
If there is one area where Claxton will have to improve at the professional level it will be his 3-point shooting. He made just 28 percent of his 3-point attempts last year.
“Claxton has been steadily moving up draft boards thanks to his intriguing combination of length, mobility, defensive versatility and perimeter skill, even if it’s clear that his body will need to fill out significantly to handle the rigors of NBA big men,” ESPN’s Jonathan Givony wrote about Claxton.
7-foot + 20-year-old #Georgia #Bulldogs center prospect Nicolas Claxton, who was just picked 31st by the @BrooklynNets, averaged 3.1 BLKS per-40 in 32 GP this season, which was 3rd among collegiate 2019 DX mock #nbadraft picks pic.twitter.com/iIOHl5JoQg
— Jonathan Givony (@DraftExpress) June 21, 2019
The last Georgia basketball player to be drafted was Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who the Detroit Pistons took with the No. 8 overall pick.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the Nets intend to keep Claxton. The Nets had been trying to shop the pick prior to picking Claxton. Brooklyn is expected to be very active in free agency and has been mentioned as a possible landing spot for Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant.
“I’m going to continue working on stretching my game out with being consistent with my jump shot and continue to add some muscle,” Claxton told reporters. “I’m going to be a force in the NBA.”
Georgia basketball coach Tom Crean took to Twitter to praise the selection of Claxton.
“The Brooklyn Nets are on such an upswing. Sean Marks is running a high level operation and Kenny Atkinson can really coach and develop and they are surrounded by a tremendous staff,” Crean tweeted. “They were fun to watch and are really moving up. A great place for Nicolas Claxton.”
Coming out of high school, Claxton was rated as the No. 231 prospect. He played at Legacy Charter in Greenville, SC. Claxton’s father, Charles, also played basketball at Georgia and was taken in the second round of the 1994 NBA Draft by the Phoenix Suns.