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Knicks’ Isaiah Hartenstein Due For Bigger Payday Than Nets’ Nic Claxton?

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The NBA playoffs are nearing the conference finals, with the second round well in progress. For most teams, it’s the NBA offseason. The NBA Combine is underway. The lottery is behind us. Needless to say, it’s the offseason for most teams, including the Brooklyn Nets.

The Nets’ offseason will be dictated by center Nic Claxton, who is an unrestricted free agent. Whether they re-sign him or not could determine whether or not they are buyers or sellers all offseason.

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Claxton is going to command a pretty penny, and rightfully so. He bet on himself while dealing his last contract, and it paid off. Despite his jump in stats and impact, Bleacher Report believes New York Knicks center Isaiah Hartenstein will out-earn Claxton this offseason. The two free agent centers will be hitting the market at the same time, providing different services.

“Nic Claxton averaged more points (11.8), rebounds (9.9) and blocks (2.1) than fellow free-agent center Isaiah Hartenstein (7.8, 8.3 and 1.1, respectively) this past season and brings switchable defense many teams crave from their big men,” Bleacher Report wrote. “Hartenstein is still going to out-earn Claxton on the open market.”

Claxton is going to anchor a solid defense, whether it be in Brooklyn or elsewhere, but Bleacher Report believes the need for a more conventional big is essentially come playoff time. That’s their reason for believing Hartenstein will earn more money in this free agency.

“Some of that has to do with the quiet shift back toward conventional big men across the league. Versatility is still critical, but the need for actual heft is rising again,” Bleacher Report wrote. “The league’s last four MVPs have been bruising, non-switch big men who cannot be guarded by small-ball 5s, and the trend extends past Joel Embiid and Nikola Jokić.”

In all fairness, Hartenstein and the Knicks are still alive in the playoffs, one game away from an Eastern Conference Finals berth. Hartenstein has played a huge role in the Knicks being able to make their current run. Still, Claxton could earn somewhere around $100 million over the course of four years. It’s hard to imagine Hartenstein gets that level of money.

“That’s not to say Claxton is without his merits. He’s younger and more mobile than Hartenstein, and his shot-blocking prowess is legitimate,” Bleacher Report continued. “But the New York Knicks big man, pressed into starting duties only after an injury to Mitchell Robinson (another old-school big), roasted Claxton in every catch-all metric from Box Plus/Minus to Estimated Plus/Minus to Player Efficiency Rating and can hold up better against the bruising bigs that are returning to prominence.”

It’s nice to see centers being able to compete for hefty contracts, signaling the position is far from dead — killing a narrative beginning half a decade ago when the Houston Rockets played without a center on the roster.

For the Nets, whichever center earns more doesn’t matter as long as they can return Claxton, doing so at fair value for the defensive anchor.

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