Brooklyn Nets in the awards discussions
The Brooklyn Nets have one legitimate candidate for a postseason award emerging in the early going. Caris LeVert is putting his fingerprints all over the Most Improved Player award this season.
His scoring is up from 12.1 points per game last season to an even 20.0 this year on five more attempts per game (10.4 shots per game in 2017-18 to 15.7 this season).
He’s rebounding more (3.7 per game to 4.6 per game in 2018-19 thus far). Despite playing less at the point guard spot, he’s setting up teammates at the same 4.2 assists per game rate as a season ago.
His playing time is up 5.2 minutes per game, from 26.3 last season to 31.5, so in the interest of ensuring LeVert is actually improved rather than the often-held stance of the voters for the MIP — giving it to the guy whose numbers went up because he played more — let’s look at rates.
Per 36 minutes, Levert has gone from 16.6 points to 22.9. Rebounding is up from 5.0 to 5.3. Steals are up from 1.6 to 1.7. Assists do take a dip looking at this, from 5.8 to 4.8, but turnovers are down from 3.0 to 2.7.
His overall shooting has gone up from 43.5 percent last season to 47.8 so far this season, even if his 3-point accuracy is slightly off (34.7 percent last season, 33.3 percent so far in 2018-19). His free throw shooting is markedly better — improving from 71.1 percent to 79.5 percent.
There may be other candidates out there, but LeVert is currently on a similar path as last season’s winner, Victor Oladipo, in that he went from role player to first option and delivered.
If anyone with a vote is paying attention, LeVert should be the leader on the course right now.