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Fantasy Basketball Breakouts, Busts, and Locks - Brooklyn Nets

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Welcome to a new series here at RotoBaller where we look at a breakout, a bust and a lock candidate for each NBA team. We did this for the NFL this past offseason and these pieces were a lot of fun to write, so I thought we'd bring it to the NBA.

Today, we'll be looking at the Brooklyn Nets. After an eventful offseason, the Nets have ended up looking largely the same as last season. So, what can we expect from this team when it comes to fantasy basketball?

Below are the breakout, bust and lock picks for the 2022-23 Brooklyn Nets.


Fantasy Breakout: Nicolas Claxton

I'm really excited to see what Nic Claxton can do as the full-time starting center for the Nets this year, especially when you factor in that he doesn't have a veteran backing him up who could end up surpassing him on the depth chart. Claxton should be set to stick in this role as long as he's healthy, because while Day'Ron Sharpe is an intriguing player, he doesn't have the talent of Claxton.

Last season, Claxton played a career-high 47 games, making 19 starts. Overall, he shot 67.4% from the floor and averaged 8.7 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game. If we filter it down to just those 19 starts, we start to get a sense of what Claxton can ultimately do, as he averaged the same number of rebounds as a starter but jumped to 10.8 points per game. He averaged 23.0 minutes per game as a starter.

Claxton should surpass that mark this season, barring the Nets getting weird and running more lineups with a Simmons/Durant frontcourt than anyone expects. Claxton brings a lot of energy to the floor and should get a lot of open looks at the basket, as defenses will be trying to account for the rest of the players on the floor, which will often leave Claxon in one-on-one situations.

Of course, a Claxton breakout isn't a guarantee. Per NBA.com, Claxton averaged 1.1 points per possession as a pick-and-roll roller last season, which was sixth on the team but was below guys like Andre Drummond and LaMarcus Aldridge. You'll want to see him get a little more efficient there. Drummond, for example, shot 74.4% on those plays. Claxton shot 57.5%, which is still good but is also an area he can improve on.

And there are also concerns about his free throw shooting, as he shot 58.1% from the line last year. Can he stay on the court late in games? Being teammates with Ben Simmons, who also struggles from the line, makes that risky for the Nets. Should you have two poor FT shooters on the floor together?

However, if you're punting free throws, there's definitely a lot of upside with Claxton.


Fantasy Bust: Ben Simmons

It's not so much that I think Simmons will be bad this year, but in 12-team fantasy basketball leagues, he's a sixth-round pick right now despite not having played in an NBA game since June 2021.

There's a wide range of outcomes when it comes to Ben Simmons this year. He could, theoretically, thrive on this Nets team. Surrounding him with shooters might open things up for Simmons to get downhill and make plays at the basket. There are just a few too many limitations when it comes to Simmons. There is, of course, the obvious one, which is that he doesn't shoot the ball. He has five career threes. He shoots 59.7% from the free-throw line. Yikes.

Now he joins a Nets team that has Kyrie Irving at point guard. Will this mean fewer assists for Simmons? Will he be used off the ball more often? Can Ben Simmons contribute offensively when he's not on the ball? I can see a scenario where Simmons's whole offense is him being the backup ball handler and a roll man, and I just don't know how much fantasy value there is in that role when you factor in his cost.


Fantasy Lock: Kevin Durant

Well, duh. This one is a no-brainer. Durant requested a trade at some point in the offseason, but somehow the Nets worked it out with their star, and he's set to return to the team this season.

We can talk all we want about whether or not Durant wants to be in Brooklyn. but Durant isn't your average guy who wants out of a place. He's not going to sulk. He's not going to sit out. He's going to lace up his shoes, go out on the court and play some basketball. Durant's a baller.

At some point, Durant probably starts to lose a step, considering he's 34 and has a torn Achilles in his history, but last season showed that he's not ready to take a step back yet. Durant averaged 29.9 points per game, his best mark since 2013-14. He almost had a 50/40/90 season, but missed it on the threes, as he shot 38.3% from there on 5.5 attempts per game.

Durant also added 7.4 rebounds, 6.4 assists, 0.9 steals, and 0.9 blocks per game. The addition of Ben Simmons and the full-time return of Kyrie Irving could impact that assist number, but it's hard to see Durant's numbers dropping too much. Even with Irving and Simmons, I can't imagine Durant averages under 25 points per game, considering he's averaged at least that many every season he's been in the league except for his rookie campaign when he averaged 20.3.

This is about as close as you can get to a lock. Durant is one of the NBA's best players and shows no signs of slowing down.


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