The Brooklyn Nets are going down to Disney without their two best players. Can Caris LeVert step up and prove his worth as the third-star?
This Brooklyn Nets season has been challenging, to say the least. Hopes were high when Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving signed with the team, but both have been dealing with injuries all season; Durant didn’t even have a chance to suit up for the team. One bright spot for the Nets this season, however, has been Caris LeVert.
On top of that, the beloved Nets coach, Kenny Atkinson, was fired. Yet, none of this will stop the Nets from making their way down to Disney World to compete in the abridged basketball season.
The Nets’ success in Disney will be contingent on a few things. Will Kyrie play? Will the team be able to re-ignite the spark they had before the pandemic shut them down? And, most significantly, will LeVert regain his all-star potential?
LeVert was dominant in the opening stretch of the 2018-2019 season. As a longtime Nets fan, I had hope that the Nets could take it all the way. This scrawny kid from Michigan would lift the Nets out of the pit of cyclical rebuilds.
LeVert averaged 18.4 points, 3.7 assists and 4.3 rebounds per game on 47.5 percent shooting from the field and 31.1 percent shooting from the three in the first 14 games of the season. With game-winners against the Knicks and the Nuggets, LeVert quickly proved himself to be a core component of the Nets’ success.
He then, unfortunately, suffered a leg injury that was supposedly sidelining him for the remainder of the season. Fortunately, he recovered quickly and jumped back into play in February. He was still suffering, unable to return to full form after the injury, as he was only averaging 11.5 points, 4.0 assists, and 3.5 rebounds per game for the rest of the season.
His postseason numbers (21.0 points/3.0 assists/4.6 rebounds) looked promising, but with Kyrie on the court with him for the 2019-2020 season, LeVert was looking at fewer touches and fewer scoring opportunities.
In the games in which Irving played, LeVert averaged 13.5 points, 3.4 assists, and 3.8 rebounds per game. The numbers aren’t great, but he also always shares the court with other isolation ballhandlers like himself.
Without Irving, the averages went up to 24.1 points, 5.3 assists, and 4.8 rebounds per game. Whether it be Irving or Dinwiddie, LeVert is not typically the primary ballhandler in the lineup.
At 6’6”, 205 lbs, LeVert has played shooting guard for his whole professional career. But he plays like a big point guard, having been the lead guard in some offensive sets.
Dinwiddie and LeVert have an organic relationship on the court, and each one naturally makes room for the other to thrive.
Watching the Nets this past season, a lot of their offense was Kyrie, Dinwiddie, or LeVert in isolation, topped off by a few alley-oops and occasional Joe Harris threes.
With Durant not playing at Disney World and uncertainty surrounding Irving’s return, LeVert will find the ball in his hands a lot. He’ll be able to shine. With a probable starting five of Dinwiddie, LeVert, Harris, Prince, and Allen, the Nets are looking at a lot of three-point shots. The floor will be spaced, and LeVert will be healthy.
The Nets are only half a game up on the Magic for the seven seed in the Eastern Conference. To maintain their spot, the Nets will need the best version of LeVert that they can get.
LeVert can turn it on and change the pace of the game, or he can slow it down and catch the defense off guard. Teams know what to expect from Dinwiddie (isolation drives) and Harris (threes). But LeVert can keep them on their toes, surprising them on the offensive end.
It makes him such a wild card that, with consistency, he could be a gamechanger for the Nets throughout the next decade. More imminently, it could be great for this Disney World Nets team.
At 25, we probably haven’t seen the best of LeVert. In a league that gives up on players so quickly after they’re drafted, LeVert has been able to stick around with his progressing play on both ends of the floor.
He could even be that third star the media longs for the Nets to acquire. Why acquire a new star when LeVert could be the star you need?
With an incoming new coach for the 2020-2021 season, and the trade rumors swirling, LeVert’s Disney World play could be make-or-break for his tenure with the Nets.
The Nets need to be able to count on LeVert to succeed in the playoffs. He is key to their present and their future. Let’s hope he proves himself at Disney.