The Brooklyn Nets should look at shaking up the guard core. Both Joe Harris and Caris LeVert are proving they’re capable of giving more.
The Brooklyn Nets‘ season started with a shortage of guards. Now they may have too many.
Head coach Kenny Atkinson has lived up to his reputation in the development of raw talent, especially when it comes to the Nets’ guards. Among the eight on the roster, Caris LeVert and Joe Harris have found themselves both breaking out in the same season.
Within one month of the opening of the 2017-18 season, both starting guards, Jeremy Lin and D’Angelo Russell, went down with injuries. So the coaching staff turned to their guard depth for an answer.
Immediately, both Harris and LeVert were exposed to more minutes. As a result, the two bench guards are both playing some of the better basketball we’ve seen out of their young careers.
While both were once thought of as sixth men in the rotation, only one guard can fill that role. In order to provide structure, should one of these guards be bumped to the starting five?
Sophomore guard LeVert has remained resilient in the face of injury, on more than one occasion this season. He’s missed ten games total, due to various ailments.
Luckily enough for Brooklyn, his health has remained stable for the final stretch. He’s not missed one game since returning at the end of February. Though he’s played 12 games in his return, he’s been the Nets’ best player in the month of March.
Over Brooklyn’s last ten, he’s averaging 14.9 points, 4.1 assists, and 3.5 rebounds per game. That includes a career-high 27-point night in a Brooklyn loss to the Clippers.
On the other side of the Nets bench, guard Joe Harris has quietly had a strong second year with the team.
He’s averaging a career-high in points (10.3), rebounds (3.3), field goal percentage (.474) and three-point percentage (.401). He’s been consistent in a season where consistency was hard to come by and scored a career-high 21 points back in December in a win over the Miami Heat.
While both guards are playing above a bench role, the Nets can’t push them both to the starting lineup.
Though he’s struggled, Russell is looking like peak “Dloading” since returning from injury. He’s cemented his place as Brooklyn’s point guard, and likely as the cornerstone going forward.
Elsewhere, the Nets’ highest paid player has disappointed and may benefit from a role change.
Allen Crabbe, who was one of the NBA’s top marksman last year, is scoring 12.7 points per game on a lowly .365 clip from behind the arc. In comparison to the bench guards, where Harris is shooting a higher .401, and LeVert is scoring at a higher volume.
Though Crabbe holds a high scoring capacity, his jump shot just hasn’t fallen consistently since being traded to the Nets. In Portland, he was playing off the bench, and he may need to be returned to that role in order to find his stride.
Defensively, the Nets rank last among all NBA teams in steals per game, and Crabbe is averaging just 0.6 a night. LeVert is a better defender altogether while also averaging a career-high 1.1 steals.
There’s no way that an increase in minutes wouldn’t open up the sophomore guard to an even greater impact defensively. His basketball IQ is already high for his age, and he sees a lot of passes before they reach fruition.
Harris is no great defender, but he certainly wouldn’t suffer from more minutes guarding some of today’s top offensive stars.
Lastly, it’s already the end of March and there isn’t much left to Brooklyn’s season. With just 10 games left, it may behoove coach Atkinson to experiment a little during this “free” period.
Crabbe will be forced to make the most of a reserve role and may end up breaking his slump. It will make him all the more prepared for next year, as he does not appear to be a largely sought-after player on the trade market.
Should the Nets give both Joe Harris and Caris LeVert a taste of the starting lineup, their roster decisions may be easier come the summer.
Yes, the Nets need to win as much as possible right now, not at the cost of further talent development. The Dinwiddie-Russell backcourt hasn’t yielded favorable results, so LeVert or Harris may be the answer to the Nets’ unsolved backcourt equation.
One of the Brooklyn Nets’ two sixth men should be rewarded with a starting job for the remainder of the season. With Crabbe in a slump and no draft pick to look after, it can’t hurt anyone but the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Brooklyn is away at the Air Canada Centre, preparing to take on the Eastern Conference-leading Toronto Raptors.
Tip-off is at 7:30 p.m. ET.