Nets’ Jordi Fernandez believes Nic Claxton can win DPOY someday

NEW YORK — Brooklyn Nets head coach Jordi Fernandez was formally introduced to the media on Wednesday after being hired as a head coach in the NBA for the first time in his career. Fernandez will have some time before he has to meet with the team during training camp later this summer, but he is excited about coaching a certain player.

“You just said it, right? Nic (Claxton) is a “big” that has defensive versatility. I believe he’ll be Defensive Player of the Year,” Fernandez said during his introductory press conference about the potential that he sees in Claxton, Brooklyn’s center. Claxton is an unrestricted free-agent this offseason so time will tell if he will be back in Brooklyn for Fernandez to coach in the first place.

“For us, he’s a priority in this summer,” Fernandez explained. “The way we can play through him — obviously he’s great in pick and roll, he’s quick to the rim, he puts pressure on the rim — but also his ability to play the dribble-handoff game which, as you guys know, lately in the NBA is a style that is very efficient.”

Claxton, 25, is coming off a 2023-24 season in which he averaged 11.8 points, 9.9 rebounds, 2.1 assists, and 2.1 blocks per game while shooting 62.9% from the field and 55.1% from the free-throw line. One of the constant themes with the Nets over the past two seasons has been expanding Claxton’s responsibilities given how versatile he is on both ends of the floor.

Fernandez communicating that Claxton is a priority for the Nets this offseason makes it appear like he is on board with Claxton coming back to Brooklyn already and could have been a selling point in Fernandez taking the job. He also sees that leaning into what Claxton can do on both ends of the court can have a positive effect on the rest of the team.

“It helps with ball movement. So when everybody touches the ball and everybody’s involved, everybody’s happier. You’re harder to guard because there’s more — you’re not that predictable to just play pick-and-roll. So he fits perfectly, what we want to do moving forward,” Fernandez said.

Story originally appeared on Nets Wire