The Brooklyn Nets romped the New Orleans Pelicans on Monday night, with Caris LeVert and Archie Goodwin absorbing the spotlight.
The NBA Summer League is a puzzling stretch. In it, there is an interesting blend of players. Guys who have spent a year or two (or three) take the court with and against rookies, undrafted free agents and guys who have spent time in other leagues in different nations. It’s frenetic, disjointed and entertaining. Brooklyn improved their record to 2-1 in Las Vegas after stomping out the Pelicans 95-66, and it was LeVert and Goodwin who looked phenomenal.
I want to avoid any hyperbole, but it’s possible to watch the Summer League and be impressed when guys stand out. Even though the competition isn’t the same that they’ll be seeing during the regular season, the habits they have will translate. Do they force shots, or make the easy play? Are they missing rotations on defense? Most importantly, are they playing with intensity? Those things don’t show up in the box score, and Goodwin and LeVert showcased the perfect combinations of statistics and intangibles.
Oddly enough, it was the second time this calendar year that the Nets royally beat down New Orleans. Back in January, Brooklyn had a dominating outing that resulted in a 143-114 victory. LeVert had 17 points in both contests. Goodwin was only present for the most recent one.
On Monday, both Goodwin and LeVert played 20 minutes, and Kenny Atkinson has been great with allocating decent time to most of his roster. Goodwin had the most impactful showing, dropping 18 points on 6-of-9 shooting with eight assists and a plus/minus of plus-30. Even if it’s “just Summer League,” those are eye-catching. Specifically, how Goodwin handed out so many helpers. He’s got the ability to play both guard positions, but I think he’s better suited at the two. Well, Monday night made me think differently — even if was just for a few hours.
Goodwin’s eight dimes were a game-high. New Orleans had nine as a team. The Nets got out and ran often, and Goodwin was the ball handler on a couple of those possessions. Time and time again, he found the open man and made the easy pass. He didn’t force anything; he didn’t make any rash decisions. Additionally, Goodwin spaced the floor well and opened up the driving lines, something that he’ll need to do consistently this year if he wants more minutes.
The opened court benefitted LeVert significantly, and he’s gone out and played the last two games like he was the best player on the court. Against the Milwaukee Bucks on Sunday, an 88-83 loss where Rashad Vaughn dropped 31 points, LeVert had 18 of his own. To say he was off from three would be an understatement. Of his seven attempts from long range, zero of them fell. I’m no math whiz, but that’s not a good percentage. Fortunately, the confidence of the rising sophomore didn’t shake, and he connected on nine of his 11 attempts inside the arc.
Monday was similar. LeVert followed up his 18 points with 17 on 6-of-12 shooting — this includes two made threes in six tries. LeVert also pulled down eight boards, which is a blessing because he, like Goodwin, can ignite the fast break and put pressure on the defense. From there, everything becomes easier.
The biggest takeaways from Monday’s action are the unselfishness the two played with, and also how they dominated as pros should. It’s no secret that the guys who have spent time in the NBA should own the Summer League. Goodwin and LeVert did just that, and a handful of other guys had solid outings because of them.
I expect the same attitude from both going forward, but the numbers are going to differ. In a perfect world, LeVert would be the one handing out the assists because Brooklyn wants him to be that playmaker. I’m not mad at how well Goodwin played, but it was certainly a shock. Additionally, LeVert’s showing isn’t surprising in the least. If he was comfortable being a go-to guy on the NBA level, why would it change over the summer?
Both guys are going to do their best to keep this momentum steady. For the rest of the summer (and hopefully through the regular season), they’ll have the same mentality. Whatever they do for the final days in Vegas will be a solid foundation, and the Archie Goodwin experiment has piqued my interest.