Nets forward Noah Clowney during the second half against the Heat...

Nets forward Noah Clowney during the second half against the Heat at Barclays Center on Nov. 25, 2023. Credit: Noah K. Murray

WASHINGTON. – Noah Clowney’s first basket Monday was a second-quarter dunk that brought the Nets bench to their feet. But it was how the rookie big man did it that stood out.

Clowney drove from the top of the three-point line to the basket and soared before his one-handed finish. That type of play usually comes from perimeter wings, not bigs.

He later added a corner three-pointer during the Nets’ 12-2 fourth-quarter run in their win over the Raptors. That was less surprising since Clowney attempted four threes Thursday, with one make.

“It’s gonna be shown soon,” Clowney said of his shooting. “I just ain’t making them all right now. It’s coming soon.”

The 19-year-old mostly appeared in garbage time or out of necessity this season as he spent time in the G-League. Now, he’s played 14 and 21 minutes in two of the last three games.

He had seven points and six rebounds Monday against the Raptors after posting five points and four rebounds Thursday in Milwaukee against the Bucks. He also played critical fourth-quarter minutes along with fellow rookie Jalen Wilson.

But to let Clowney tell it, he wasn’t nervous because it’s what he’s supposed to be doing.

“It’s great that they trust me with the minutes,” Clowney said. “As for me personally, I’ve played a lot of games, even in the G. All got the same goal, try to win. So it don’t really change to me.

Clowney’s had some growing moments with missed assignments at times. But it’s matched by him playing with energy and showing potential as a good defender.

For interim coach Kevin Ollie, his aggressive attitude and versatility make Clowney valuable even more than his two dunks in traffic Monday.

“He’s like another Nic [Claxton] out there that can play guards and get through screens,” Ollie said Thursday. “His defense was phenomenal and that sticks out to me more than the threes and the dunks.”

The question is will Clowney get more playing time as the season winds down? It all depends, because he’s played more minutes because of players getting hurt.

The Nets are also still chasing the Hawks for the final play-in spot. They’re mathematically in the hunt, but the odds of catching them are smaller by the day.

It’s a delicate balance to go into development mode with something to play for. But a clue to Clowney’s future came with some lineup pairings Thursday.

Despite playing center in Long Island, he was on the floor as a power forward alongside Nic Claxton or Day’Ron Sharpe.

Power forward was the position he played at Alabama last season so it felt natural.

“I think it opens up a lot of different opportunities for me, especially crashing the glass,” Clowney said of the pairings. “It’s a lot easier to crash the glass with a head of steam versus just being there already for me personally.”

Clowney still has a ways to go to crack the Nets’ rotation. But he’s taking advantage of his minutes gain and if he shows more plays like that dunk Monday or being a sound rebounder and defender, more time on the court could help him and the Nets moving forward.

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