Brooklyn Nets: Caris LeVert needs to take next step

Brooklyn Nets Caris LeVert. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
Brooklyn Nets Caris LeVert. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images) /

While Brooklyn Nets wing Caris LeVert is coming off his best, albeit injury-shortened, season, he needs to find a new level to stay part of the team’s plan.

Although the raw stats may not show it, Caris LeVert is easily coming off his best season. In his third year with the Brooklyn Nets, the University of Michigan product averaged 13.7 points, 3.8 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game on 43 percent shooting overall and 31 percent shooting from 3.

Looking at his stats from last season, one might have the argument of saying he hardly increased from, having averaged 12.1 points, 3.7 rebounds and 4.2 assists on about 44 percent shooting overall and 35 percent shooting from 3 in 2017-18.

More from Nothin' But Nets

So with the numbers being so close, how can Caris be easily coming off his best season

In the first month of the 2018-19 season, Caris LeVert was the best player on the Brooklyn Nets based off his play. In those eight games, LeVert averaged around 19 points, five rebounds and five assists per game on 47.5 percent shooting overall, but a well below-average 27.8 percent from deep.

In the next five games (not including the one he got hurt in), he averaged 19.2 points, 3.6 rebounds and 2.0 assists while shooting 48 percent overall and about 41 percent from 3. This is a decent sample size to see the level of play that he was trending towards as the season progressed.

But Nov. 12 would be a brutal end to such a great start by the third-year player. In a game against the Minnesota Timberwolves, Caris LeVert would go down with a gruesome dislocated right foot. He would go on to miss the about three months before coming back in early February.

Coming back from such a nasty injury so quickly was seen as a blessing, but LeVert would struggle with inconsistent play in the contests to come. He’d show flashes of what he was to start the season, but normally could not sustain throughout the course of the game.

As the season progressed, doubts of whether LeVert could regain his early All-Star level of play crept into the minds of many. And it wasn’t like he came back to the same situation.

Upon his return, his backcourt mate, D’Angelo Russell, had finally found himself in much the same way LeVert found himself to start the season. At this point, D’Lo was the unquestioned best player on the team.

He made the All-Star Game, he was putting up the best numbers of his young career and had unforgettable moments with the team. But coming down the stretch, with the Brooklyn Nets hopes of a playoff spot hanging in the balance, Caris LeVert seemed to start to return to form.

In the final eight games, which might have been the most crucial of the season, LeVert averaged 16.0 points, 3.1 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game, all while shooting 49 percent overall and 45 percent from 3.

During the postseason, we saw more of the same, when Caris LeVert seemed to reclaim his spot as the team’s best player. Against Philly in the playoffs, LeVert averaged about 21 points, five rebounds and three assists per game while shooting 49 percent overall and 46 percent from deep.

Yes, that’s a lot of numbers, but when broken down, these 26 games speak volumes for what Caris LeVert can be when he’s healthy.

Where LeVert can improve

In his four years at the University of Michigan, Caris LeVert shot about 40 percent from 3. There was only one year where he shot below that mark, during his freshman season. This hasn’t exactly translated to the NBA as of yet. He’s shooting about 33 percent from out there for his short career.

That isn’t terrible, but it isn’t great either. Going forward, Caris LeVert will probably have some of the easiest basketball to play ahead of him.

With players like the soon-to-be added Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, Caris LeVert and the other Brooklyn Nets are probably in for more open shots than they’ve gotten in the NBA.

To capitalize off those stars drawing attention off him over the next few years, Caris LeVert needs to hit the 3 ball at a higher and more efficient clip. Adding a better shot from beyond also benefits his game, which is predicated on attacking the rim.

If NBA opposition respects his shot more, they’ll have to play him tighter, allowing him to get to the rack easier and either score or dish out.

Another area of improvement LeVert can address is his free throw shooting. At best he’s been average. For his career he’s shooting about 71 percent from the line and that just won’t do. Caris LeVert’s game is predicated off getting to the hoop.

Since he isn’t overly athletic or powerful, he isn’t just getting there and dunking on people left and right. On a lot of his attempts he has to finish through and around contact. This will allow him to draw plenty of fouls. These foul shots will be rendered moot if he can’t hit them at a higher clip.

It also can make him a potential liability late in games. LeVert would also do well to put on some muscle weight so that he can finish through contact better and so that he’ll be stronger with his defense. Maybe having more mass might also help him avoid as many injuries, but we’ll see.

This season, with Kyrie Irving at the helm of the offense, Caris LeVert needs to establish that he can be a clear-cut No. 2 option. He’ll need to become a better off-ball player to make this happen, but he’s already shown us All-Star flashes.

Hopefully he can learn a lot from Irving and Durant as he continues to grow and establish himself as a household name within the NBA. With this being the era of super teams, Kyrie (and next year Kyrie and Durant) will need all the help they can gather.

Kawhi Leonard and Paul George have a deep team with the LA Clippers. LeBron James and Anthony Davis will not be toppled easily. Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and Tobias Harris are gaining more experience together.

Next. 10 best Nets from 1996-2006. dark

And there are still other good teams like the Milwaukee Bucks, the Houston Rockets and Denver Nuggets. There are many talented and deep teams. The Brooklyn Nets will fare better if LeVert can show he can be a second option next year and a third option the year after.