Brooklyn Nets: Why Caris LeVert plays better without Kyrie Irving

Caris LeVert plays better without Kyrie Irving because Kenny Atkinson gives more time in the role of ball handler

Have you performed better in the absence of a coworker? Yes, then you are in the same position as Caris LeVert, who performs better when Kyrie Irving is not the court.

History has shown that LeVert’s level of play will fluctuate depending on how much head coach Kenny Atkinson allows him to touch the ball. Caris touched the ball 59.4 times a game in 30.7 minutes per game during his 13 outings of last season. The 59.4 touches per game helped him attack the basket 14.5 times per game.

LeVert created 10.4 points and 0.9 assists per game for Brooklyn on these drives. The drive statistics accounted for 54.7 percent of his points and 24.3 percent of his assists as he averaged 19 points with 3.7 assists. Unfortunately, LeVert’s touches declined after the 13th game as he sustained a dislocated right foot midway through the 14th game.

The dislocated right foot kept him out for the next 41 games. Upon his return from injury, Kenny Atkinson decided to ease back into the rotation. Kenny Atkinson told Caris LeVert to enjoy his time on the court before returning against the Chicago Bulls.

Kenny’s approach led a significant decrease in his touches as he averaged 41.8 touches a game in 24.9 minutes per game over his final 26 regular-season appearances. The 41.8 touches per game helped him attack the basket 10.9 times per game.

LeVert created 5.8 points, and 1 assist for Brooklyn on these drives. The drive statistics accounted for 52 percent of his points and 25 percent of his assists as he averaged 11.2 points with 4 assists.

Kenny Atkinson maintained this approach until the final week of the regular season, where he informed media that the team had lifted the restrictions on LeVert. With no limits, Caris saw a substantial increase in his touches during the playoffs as he averaged 47.8 touches per game in 28.9 minutes a game.

The 47.8 touches per game helped him attack the basket 16.6 times per game. LeVert created 11.4 points and 1.6 assists for Brooklyn on these drives. The drive statistics accounted for 53.5 percent of his points and 53.3 percent of his assists as he averaged 21 points with 3 assists.

Unfortunately, Brooklyn didn’t allow LeVert to build off of his playoff performance as the team acquired Kyrie in this past summer. Kyrie is used to having the basketball in his hands as he averaged 77.8 touches per game in the six seasons before joining Brooklyn. Not only that, he held the basketball for 4.84 seconds after he got the basketball.

Kyrie hasn’t changed his style since arriving in Brooklyn, as he is averaging 77.6 touches per game. Furthermore, he is holding for 4.91 seconds during every touch. Consequently, Irving’s style has affected LeVert’s touches as he averaged 40.8 per game over his first 23 games.

The 40.8 touches per game have helped him attack the basket 11.7 times per game. LeVert created 5.2 points and 1.1 assists for Brooklyn on these drives. The diminished touches meant that spot-up shooting was the easiest way for him to raise his level of play.

Brooklyn has been running a pick and roll centric offense as they are currently 5th in the category averaging 25.6 per game. Unfortunately for Caris, Kyrie has been responsible for 48 percent of those possessions.

A prime example of this can be found midway through the first quarter of a road game against the Detroit Pistons when Kyrie Irving received a pass with 7 seconds left on the shot clock. Once this happened, Jarrett Allen came to the right-wing to set a screen for him. After Allen set the screen, Kyrie’s defender (Langston Galloway) fought over the pick.

Consequently, Kyrie decided to attack the basket as he believed that he could blow by Andre Drummond for an open look near the basket. Halfway through his drive toward the basket, Irving realized that Caris LeVert was open on the left-wing.

Unfortunately, shooting has been the biggest weakness in LeVert’s game throughout his career as he is converted 28.9 percent of his catch and shoot threes on 1.7 attempts over his first 23 games. The combination of these factors held him to 13.3 points with 3.2 assists. 

Caris has only replicated his performance in the playoff when Kyrie is out because he is given more time in the role of ball handler. For example, Kyrie sprained his right knee during a road game against the Washington Wizards on February 1st.

Consequently, Kenny Atkinson allowed Caris LeVert to touch the basketball 65 times a game in 32.3 minutes per game over his last 5 outings. The 65 touches per game helped him attack the basket 19 times per game.

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LeVert created 10.2 points and 2.2 assists per game for Brooklyn on these drives. The drive statistics accounted for 42.5 percent of his points and 42.3 percent of his assists as he averaged 24 points with 5.2 assists.

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