Sophomore Nic Claxton was a conspicuous bright spot in an otherwise rough first season for Tom Crean in Athens. A lot of Bulldog fans consoles themselves down the stretch by imagining big man Nic Claxton combining with Anthony Edwards and the rest of the Bulldogs’ exciting 2019 recruiting class to bring about better days.
That may still happen, but it’s not a given, as Claxton confirmed on Friday that he’ll enter the NBA Draft pool. The move is not entirely surprising, as Claxton enjoyed a breakout season during 2018–19. The Greenville native, whose dad Charles also played for the ‘Dawgs, averaged 12.7 points per game and lead the Red and Black with 7.7 rebounds per game.
Claxton has NBA length and solid range shooting the ball. 6’11 players who can shoot the three don’t grow on trees, and they’re in demand in the pro game. It makes sense that Claxton would at least throw his hat in the ring this year.
But Bulldog fans probably shouldn’t fret too much at this point. In contrast to the NFL, players can enter the NBA Draft and then take their names out and return to school. In past years that meant going through the draft combine, then returning if the player’s Draft grade was poor.
This year, however, players can actually go through the draft itself and, if they’re not selected, return to school as if it never happened. Student/athletes can even sign with an agent, but must cut ties with them if returning to school.
While Claxton is an intriguing prospect, he’s not a can’t miss player. Especially when one accounts for some foreign players who scouts probably get a better look at over the coming weeks, his draft status is actually a matter of strong conjecture. But given the new rule there’s no downside for Claxton Inn and least seeing how teens respond.
If pressed to make a prediction I think the chances of him being back in Athens for next season are probably 50/50 or better. If a team however does see enough to pick him, at a minimum it gives Tom Crean proof of concept for what he can do in just a year with recruits. There is a pretty long list of things Georgia basketball is not, and one of them is “an NBA factory.” For the long-term success of the program having some success in the draft in the end analysis would not be the worst thing in the world either. Until later...