Georgia Basketball: What if Nic Claxton Stayed at UGA?

Jordan Jackson

Former Georgia Bulldogs big man Nicolas Claxton is currently learning on the job in the NBA. Meanwhile, his Bulldogs mates are fighting for their first NCAA Tournament berth in years. This spurs interesting thoughts of how things would be different had Claxton chose to stick with the Georgia Basketball program one more season.

After a solid sophomore campaign in which he averaged 13 points, 8.6 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game, Nic Claxton decided to leave the Georgia Basketball team and head for the green pastures of the NBA. The move was fruitful as he was selected number 31 overall by the Brooklyn Nets in the 2019 NBA Draft.

Unfortunately for Claxton that was just one pick away from being a first-round pick. That would have meant a four-year contract, with the first two seasons fully guaranteed. Had Nic been selected one pick sooner, it would have given him the potential to make slightly more than eight million dollars in the first four years of his professional basketball career. All was not lost for Claxton however, as he signed a three year fully guaranteed deal, worth nearly 4.2 million dollars.

From a playing time perspective, the 6'11 215 pound Nic Claxton is in a tough situation. His Nets team currently holds the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. As expected Nic is currently behind Texas big man and starting center Jarrett Allen. However, Brooklyn also landed veteran center DeAndre Jordan as part of a free agent package that included all-star Kyrie Irving and superstar Kevin Durant, moving Claxton further down the depth chart.

Nicolas Claxton is playing just 13 minutes per game. He's played in just 12 of the team's 42 games thus far, having dealt with a shoulder injury. He is posting averages of just 4.7 points and 2.7 boards per contest. Though when looking at advanced stats, Nic's numbers look much respectable from a per 36 minutes played perspective. He's posting numbers of 12.9 points, 7.4 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.8 blocks in that time frame. 

Nic Claxton has had some impressive performances when he has received the opportunity. In fact, he's delivered the best two games of his young NBA career in the team's two most recent contests. He played 19 minutes against the Milwaukee Bucks scoring 14 points, pulling down six rebounds and swatting three shots. He followed that performance up the following night with a career-high 15 points against the Philadelphia 76ers in 17 minutes of playing time. He made an impressive six of eight shot attempts.

Meanwhile back in Athens, the Georgia Bulldogs are currently 11-8 after dropping a contest to Ole Miss 60-70. The loss drops UGA to the ninth-best record in the SEC. The Dawgs are off to a rough start in conference play at just 1-5. Anthony Edwards has played very well, averaging 18.9 points, 4.5 rebounds, 3.2 assists, and 1.3 steals.

The problem with this year's Georgia Basketball team is that Anthony Edwards does not have enough help. Forward Rayshaun Hammonds is the only other Bulldog consistently scoring double figures, contributing 13.9 points per game. He also leads the Dawgs in rebounding with 8.9 per contest. Incredibly 6'1 guard Darnell Gresham Jr. Is the UGA's second-leading rebounder at just 5.1.

Had Nicholas Claxton stayed on campus, he would have added essential leadership to a very young UGA squad. Equally as important, he would have provided a capable go-to scorer, for this season's rendition of the Georgia Bulldogs Basketball team. Noting the fact that he increased his point total nearly 10 points from his freshman to his sophomore year, it's not unreasonable to believe that Nic could have increased his scoring average from 13 to 18 or so this season. 

The high field goal percentage Nic Claxton shoots would have added much-needed efficiency to the Dawgs' offensive attack. He would have added much-needed rebounding help, likely averaging a double-double. Claxton also would have added shot-blocking and overall rim protection. That is currently one of the Georgia Bulldogs' biggest deficiencies, as not a single Dawg is blocking even one shot per game on a consistent basis.

Nic Claxton is having a solid rookie season

Nicolas Claxton and Anthony Edwards would have been an incredible inside/outside combination. They two men have games that would have complimented each other very well. Nic Claxton has a more than capable post game and is a very good passer. Anthony Edwards attempts 46.9 percent of his shots from beyond the arch. In the team's recent loss to Ole Miss ten of his twelve shot attempts, were from beyond the arch, an exceptionally high number.

The ability for Claxton to play with his back to the basket, force a double team or a zone and make the right pass, would have taken the pressure off of Edwards. Edwards, who is always the focal point of opposing defenses, would certainly have more efficient numbers than the 41 percent from the field and the 32 percent from three that he is currently posting if he had a dynamic running mate like Claxton.

As the old saying goes, hindsight is 20/20. The decision has already been made and both Nicolas Claxton and Anthony Edwards will be fine professional basketball players when it is all said and done. However fans of Georgia Basketball can't help but lament, the fact that they possibly missed out on seeing the SEC version of Kobe and Shaq, or at least Devon Booker and Deandre Ayton with more victories.