Even with Kevin Durant out in 2019, two Brooklyn Nets can take major steps forward learning from him: Caris LeVert and Rodions Kurucs.
Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, and DeAndre Jordan are joining the Brooklyn Nets. There’s no doubt the Nets will be a much-improved team next year. Individually, Caris LeVert and Rodions Kurucs can both learn from Durant in a big way.
We begin with LeVert, who showed signs of being an All-Star early last season before going down with a foot injury. He averaged 18.9 points, 4.8 assists, and 4.6 rebounds per game in eight October games out of the gates, and continued to perform at that high level into November before going down. His field goal percentage was over 46 percent, and his 3-point shot showed signs of improvement as well.
Upon his return to the team in February, LeVert was rusty which was to be expected. The Nets eased LeVert back, and by April he looked like he was getting back to pre-injury form. Then came the first round series against Philadelphia, where he took off.
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In the five-game series against the Sixers, LeVert averaged 21 points, 4.6 rebounds, and three assists on 49 percent shooting and a revelation 46 percent from three, on high volume. He was Brooklyn’s most effective and efficient player in the series by far.
Durant’s mentorship can help LeVert maximize his potential. For starters, the two are close friends and work out together during the offseason. They’ve both gone through similar foot injuries in the past, and LeVert even has the nickname “Baby Durant”.
Durant can help LeVert, who is already above average driving to the basket, develop a few additional moves. The biggest thing for LeVert will be 3-point shooting, which Durant has perfected by using his long wingspan to get shots off quickly with a high release point that is at most times, unguardable.
Finally, Durant knows what it’s like to win, and hit big shots in clutch moments.
Rodions Kurucs wasn’t in the immediate plans to the start last season.
A second round pick from Barcelona, he had played around 60 minutes the entire previous season, but injuries and a glaring hole at the four had him sprung into action, and he didn’t disappoint. The Nets had a 28-18 record in games Kurucs started, and he averaged 9 points, 4 rebounds, and an assist per game.
Kurucs’ value went beyond the stat sheet. He had a knack for making winning plays, and was a guy the other team didn’t want to play against when he was on the floor. He profiles as an Andrei Kirilenko type, but I think he has an even higher ceiling.
Kurucs has shown the ability to to defend multiple positions and drive by both bigger and quicker opponents with his second gear. Like LeVert, his 3-point shot needs more consistency, but Kurucs has very nice form on his perimeter shot which bodes well for improvement.
Kurucs is closer than LeVert physically to Durant. His 7-2 wingspan is something he could leverage to perfect his 3-point shot with a higher release point. He can also take pointers from Durant on how to explode past defenders with a taller lankier frame.
One big area Kurucs can work on is his mid-range game. If he can become a threat from mid-range, like Durant, it will open up the lanes and the perimeter for him to take even more advantage of. The two should get along well, considering Durant is Kurucs’ favorite player, and now gets to play and learn with him.
LeVert and Kurucs will be crucial to the Brooklyn Nets success in 2019-2020.
While Durant won’t be on the court during the year, his impact will be felt in how he’s able to convey his knowledge and experience to the younger Nets. Kurucs and LeVert look like two players who could absorb a lot of that, and take big steps forward as a result next season, one of the many ripple effects of having a star player like Durant in Brooklyn.