There are a few obvious candidates for the 2016-17 Rookie of the Year award, but could the Brooklyn Nets’ first-round pick from the Michigan Wolverines surprise people and take home the honors?
When it comes to the Rookie of the Year award, most, if not all of the hype will surround Philadelphia’s Ben Simmons, the No. 1 pick in the 2016 NBA Draft. Brandon Ingram could make an impact right away for the Los Angeles Lakers, and the Minnesota Timberwolves have to be thrilled when Kris Dunn fell into their lap at No. 5 overall. All of these players, plus others, figure to play into the Rookie of the Year race.
For the Brooklyn Nets, could one of the other contenders be first round pick Caris LeVert? Can he come the first player from the Michigan Wolverines to win Rookie of the Year since Chris Webber?
The Nets acquired LeVert as the 20th pick in the first round from the Indiana Pacers. The Nets’ first round pick hasn’t garnered a ton of buzz to this point, likely because he is working his way back from a foot injury. After the draft, LeVert estimated he would be back on the court within a few months.
LeVert, a four-year player who played for the Michigan Wolverines from 2012-16, is certainly talented enough to make an impact in the NBA and perhaps even a run at Rookie of the Year. But with a player such as LeVert, the first item on the to-do list is to get healthy. LeVert cannot help the Nets compete if he is injured. The team needs his foot to heal properly to ensure he will be a contributor in the future.
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Once LeVert is fully healthy and ready to go, he has the ability to play both guard spots, and can score in bunches. LeVert showed his athleticism at Michigan, which could be on full display at Barclay’s this season. LeVert is quick, and can get to the rim when needed. LeVert can score from midrange, and from three-point distance.
When LeVert is on, there isn’t much he cannot do, especially offensively. He showed ability on the defensive end as well in College.
In a shortened season last year, LeVert put up 16.5 points per game in about 30 minutes per game, but he played in just 15 games. He averaged 4.9 assists, and 5.3 rebounds. It will be worth watching to see how LeVert is able to bounce back. He was injured in December, but if LeVert can return and prove he is healthy, his injury-riddled senior season becomes less concerning.
LeVert could see time at both guard spots for the Nets this season. Jeremy Lin is entrenched as the starter at point guard, and the Nets have numerous options at shooting guard: Sean Kilpatrick, Greivis Vasquez, and Isaiah Whitehead are among possibilities. But if he is healthy, LeVert should be squarely in the mix to see time in the backcourt.
If LeVert isn’t healthy when the season tips off, that may hurt his ROY chances in the eyes of some. Players such as Simmons and Ingram should make immediate impacts, which could put LeVert behind. But if LeVert is ready to roll when the season gets underway, he has the talent to make a run at the field of ROY favorites.
The 2016-17 season figures to be a tough one for the Brooklyn Nets. However, a bright spot could be the development and emergence of Caris LeVert. Players such as Simmons, Dunn, and Ingram are considered the favorites for Rookie of the Year, but if LeVert sees enough time on the floor, he figures to impress. Will he be able to do enough to bring home the ROY? He may be considered a dark horse in the race at this point, but it could become a storyline to watch as the season progresses.