A little less than three years ago, Georgia gained a commitment from a lanky, small forward from Greenville, SC. That same guy then grew to just shy of 7'0. That guy is Nicolas Claxton, and now, he's two days away from making Bulldog history: being picked in the first round of the NBA Draft.
Many thought he would've helped himself by staying one more year at UGA, so it was a bit of a shock when Claxton declared for the NBA Draft in April.
However, Claxton definitely did better than many thought he would. His eye-popping performances in the NBA Draft Combine and workouts for NBA teams have him rising in all of the NBA Mock Drafts. In fact, most have him going anywhere from 17th to 26th, meaning he would be a first-round pick.
Claxton spoke about the importance of competing in the combine and scrimmage play in an interview after a workout with the Pacers in which he turned heads.
Claxton recently stated he would not work out for any team without a lottery pick. This doesn't necessarily mean he's guaranteed to be a lottery pick, but he may have been made a promise from one of those teams.
He's also got some help coming in from head coach, Tom Crean, and the UGA Basketball program on Twitter. Crean has recently been dropping "Nic Nuggets" that point out Claxton's improvement during his time at UGA.
The UGA Basketball twitter also made a graphic to show how Claxton got better in his sophomore year.
Claxton is a rare find and may be the only player of his type in the 2019 NBA Draft. He has the innate ability to block shots in the post due to his size. He stands just under 7'0 and has a 7' 2.5'' wingspan. On top of that, he is a great on-ball defender against smaller guards which is a needed ability in the NBA from big men. This allows for Claxton to play small forward, power forward, or center, making him one of the most versatile players in the entire draft.
My prediction: 23rd overall, Utah Jazz
I believe the Jazz take a chance on Claxton in the first round. He will most likely be low risk, high reward kind of guy. The Jazz don't have a complete team, so adding a versatile asset like Claxton makes sense. He'll most likely need a season or two to develop more offensively and tack on some muscle.
Whoever ends up with UGA's Nicolas Claxton is going to get a diamond in the rough. Claxton will be another spark to the program as well, being one of the few UGA players to be selected in the NBA Draft.