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Nick Claxton has been on fire lately. Saturday night was his ninth double-double of the season and he blocked a career-high six shots for the Raptors.

When asked how he’s been able to play at such a high level, Claxton told the YES Network’s Megan Triplett that he believes he deserves more credit, including being named Defensive Player of the Year.

“It’s just me being me,” Claxton told Triplett. “Honestly, I feel like I’m one of the best defenders in the league. I feel like I should have been up for Defensive Player of the Year. I feel like I wasn’t getting the respect I deserved. We’re winning, my numbers are good at defending the rim, defending 1 through 5.

“So it’s just me, I bring energy and that’s great for the team,” he added.

Setting his sights on DPOY may seem a little far-fetched to some, but the nearly 7-foot-23-year-old is 2nd in the league in blocks with 2.3 per game, behind Brook Lopez. He now averages nearly nine rebounds to go along with his nearly 12 points.

He’s also becoming more consistent.

In the Nets’ last 10 games (Claxton has missed two), he’s averaging 2.8 blocks to go along with 12.3 points and 9.4 rebounds. He had four double-doubles, 9 and 14, and another 15 and 9. He had three or more blocks in four games.

The field for DPOY is of course always tough, with wings and points often succumbing to the bigs. Ask Ben Simmons, who was second only to Rudy Gobert two years ago. Perennial favorites Marcus Smart, Mikal Bridges, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bam Adebayo and Gobert are also back.

Of course, not everyone disrespected his game. ESPN’s Zach Lowe wrote about the Nets this past week.

[T]he unsung hero is Nicholas Claxton. Claxton has been dynamic enough on offense to inspire some faith in Claxton-Simmons lineups, the Nets’ only road map to a viable defense and rebounding. Claxton can close the guards on the switches or block the edge with protective circuits; opponents are shooting just 53% at the basket with Claxton nearby. He’s not strong enough to shut down Brooklyn’s rebounding offense, but he’s grabbing the boards at a career-best rate…

On offense, Claxton is a solid edge rusher with a knack for cutting at the right time. He’s a skilled screener, mixing in hard shots and sliding slips that force switches.

Indeed, Claxton leads the NBA in shooting percentage (74.1%) as well as effective percentage (74.4%). He has also made improvements, if up and down, in his free throw shooting. He had two hits when they counted Friday night and was 5-for-8 for the game.

And Kyrie Irving, Friday night’s hero, took time to praise Claxton after the game.

When Sean Marks signed Claxton to a two-year, $20 million deal, including performance incentives, there was some disagreement in the fanbase about whether he was worth it (although most fans at the time were more focused on the Kevin Durant trade request). Questions. after all, Claxton had missed more games than he had played in his first three years. So far, though, the investment seems smart.


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