Nets: What will Caris LeVert’s Brooklyn legacy be?

LAKE BUENA VISTA, FLORIDA - AUGUST 19: Caris LeVert #22 of the Brooklyn Nets (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
LAKE BUENA VISTA, FLORIDA - AUGUST 19: Caris LeVert #22 of the Brooklyn Nets (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /

Caris LeVert leaves quite a legacy in Brooklyn after the James Harden trade.

The Brooklyn Nets made one of the most seismic trades in league history, bringing in James Harden to play alongside Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. Unfortunately, Brooklyn had to part ways with most of their depth pieces to help this deal come to fruition.

In a trade that saw them relinquish control of their draft for the next seven years to the Houston Rockets and flip a promising pair of frontcourt players in Jarrett Allen and Taurean Prince to the Cleveland Cavaliers, Brooklyn had to send standout guard Caris LeVert to the Indiana Pacers.

LeVert’s trade marks a philosophical shift in thinking, as he was one of the last remaining remnants of the culture that helped drag Brooklyn out of basketball purgatory and help them land Durant in the first place.

Caris LeVert was Sean Marks’ first draft success

When Marks took over the Nets job, the ill-fated Boston Celtics trade left them in a uniquely unlucky spot. Winning didn’t matter, because they lacked the talent to string together wins. Losing also didn’t matter, because Boston owned their picks. By trading away Thaddeus Young to Indiana and picking up a first-round pick in exchange, Marks took LeVert, who would’ve likely gone higher than 20th overall if his college career at Michigan wasn’t prematurely ended by several injuries.

The Nets preached patience and development on those young teams, with LeVert serving as the archetypal player that former head coach Kenny Atkinson wanted to mold into a star. After averaging just 8.2 points per game as a rookie, LeVert has improved his average to 18.7 points last season and 18.5 this year prior to the trade. Despite being overshadowed, LeVert became a solid scorer, ball-handler, and clutch performer in this league, wildly exceeding the expectations that many set for him.

The Atkinson-Marks partnership made the Nets a young, fun team that both struggled and grew up together, forming a camaraderie that is seldom seen among non-championship teams, and LeVert was right at the center of it all. During his time in Brooklyn, the Nets evolved from doormats to title favorites, even if he won’t be around for the ride anymore.

As much as this stings to say, the Nets of old are dead and buried, as the Harden trade has vaulted them into a win-now mode the franchise simply isn’t used to. While LeVert will not be on the Nets as they challenge for a title, he did as much as any player on those late 2010s Nets of establishing the culture that made Brooklyn the most attractive destination in the league.

LeVert might’ve played his last game in a Nets jersey, but the fan base will always have a soft spot for him as well as those entertaining teams that enticed KD and Kyrie to come to Brooklyn.