Brooklyn Nets: Caris LeVert shines brightest as postseason star

Brooklyn Nets Caris LeVert. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
Brooklyn Nets Caris LeVert. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images) /

The majority of the media attention and hype at the start of the Brooklyn Nets’ postseason was centered around All-Star D’Angelo Russell. But it was Caris LeVert who emerged as the team’s postseason star.

Despite the Brooklyn Nets being eliminated from the playoffs and being thoroughly embarrassed in Game 5 at the Wells Fargo Center by the Philadelphia 76ers, during the series Caris LeVert emerged as a new star for Brooklyn in the NBA galaxy.

In only 28.8 minutes per game, LeVert scored 105 points for an average of 21 points per game. He shot 49.3 percent from the field in the series. He also converted on 10-of-26 3-point attempts for a shooting average of 38.5 percent from beyond the arc.

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LeVert is not known for his deep-range prowess, but showed he’s vastly improved this aspect of his offensive arsenal.

He dished out 15 assists in the series for an average of 3.0 per game, which showed he can make plays when not scoring.  He managed to accomplish all this while only averaging 2.0 turnovers per game.

This is impressive because when he was on the floor he was the Nets go-to scorer, dominating the ball. This tends to lead to high turnovers, but that didn’t happen for LeVert. This is a testament to his proficiency in securing the ball.

LeVert’s offensive output was incredible considering this was his playoff debut; and did it in a pressurized playoff environment against a good defensive 76ers team that has two of the best defenders in the league in Jimmy Butler and Joel Embiid.

More impressively, LeVert could have been even better if he played more minutes.

LeVert was scoring from everywhere on the court. He was impossible to stop at times getting into the paint at will for dunks, short-range push shots, floaters and layups.

His first step was lightning-fast and he exploited every mismatch that presented itself. At times he had 76er defenders skating on ice with his deceptive dribbling.

After penetrating and scoring the 76ers tried to prevent LeVert from driving and he wisely used step back moves to create space and hit threes. His ball handling, footwork and quickness was remarkable to behold. LeVert was simply electric.

LeVert also grabbed 23 total rebounds (six offensive) in the series for a 4.6 average per game against a big 76ers team. He had six steals and two blocks, showing he can impact the game on the defensive side of the floor as well.

LeVert was also drawing fouls on a regular basis as the 76ers struggled to contain him. He shot 29 free throws in this series and made 21 of them for a percentage of 72.4 percent. This percentage is slightly below league average for guards but it is also a small sample size.

He is a career 70.7 percent free throw shooter. This appears to be the only flaw in his game and with practice he can easily increase his percentage.

The statistics don’t tell the whole story when it comes to LeVert’s defense. He is one of the few Net’s who can be considered a lockdown defender as he is able to guard most guards and forwards in the league.

He plays passing lanes well and has solid fundamentals. His defensive technique is sound and he positions himself very well. He’s quick to fight through screens and close out on shooters.

LeVert missed 42 regular-season games this season after dislocating his right foot in a game against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Nov. 12. Prior to that he was expected to have a breakout season as a staple in the Nets starting lineup.

He worked extremely hard on his game in the 2018 offseason and expectations were high for him in Brooklyn for this season. After the injury, not only was LeVert’s career in jeopardy but the Nets’ season seemed to be lost as well.

However, the resilient Nets stayed the course and rallied around each other to finish with the sixth-best record in the East. LeVert’s recovery schedule was far ahead of what was originally anticipated by the Nets training staff.

Not only did the Nets manage to salvage the season but they also got LeVert back sooner than expected. He was eased back into the rotation by coach Kenny Atkinson. LeVert rounded into form with no further setbacks related to the gruesome injury.

The fully healthy LeVert exploded onto the scene in the playoffs and was by far the Nets’ best player this postseason.

With this dominant playoff performance on his resume and all injury concerns laid to rest, the rising star has the potential to be a top-30 player in the NBA next season.

The 24-year-old LeVert is 6-foot-7 and can play both guard positions and small forward at times. He is extremely versatile on both ends of the court.

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His athleticism and defensive strengths allow for him to be utilized in several ways. His performance in this postseason also proved he is mentally tough and shows up to perform in big games.

He is under contract with the Nets for the 2019-20 season set to earn a salary of roughly $2.6 million in the final year of his rookie deal. After next season he can be a restricted free agent.

The Brooklyn Nets could retain the right of first refusal by extending him a qualifying offer and would be able to match any offer another team may offer LeVert; if it even comes to that.

Extending LeVert would be ideal for the Nets, but most young players with his potential and talent level elect to test the free agency market to explore their value.

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With the work he puts forth in the off season there’s room for improvement as well. If LeVert can consistently play at the level he exhibited in this postseason, going forward he will be a must-sign player for the Brooklyn Nets as a cornerstone piece for the franchise.