With a promising future approaching, the Brooklyn Nets young core may see a shakeup. For Caris LeVert, this season will determine his place.
After selling out on draft picks that turned into Jaylen Brown, Jason Tatum, and Collin Sexton; the Brooklyn Nets have still managed to form a more-than-promising young core.
That includes shooting guard Caris LeVert, a former first-round pick from the 2016 NBA Draft.
He’s flourished in his sixth-man role with the Nets, but as time wears on, he may not prove a long-term fit with the team.
As Brooklyn continues to grow into a competitive basketball club, LeVert’s time left with the team will be determined by what he can show on the court this season.
Last season Caris took strides as a sophomore two guard. He averaged 12.1 points, 4.2 assists, and 1.2 steals per game. Should he not improve from those marks next season, his future with Brooklyn may become more of a question mark.
While young talent is often viewed as a commodity in the NBA, it comes at a price. That being the paychecks that are signed at the end or towards the tail end of their rookie deals.
For the Nets young core, both D’Angelo Russell and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson are eligible for contract extensions starting this year. That leaves LeVert hanging on a limb known as his rookie deal, with no extension available until the 2021 offseason.
Yet, at some point along Brooklyn’s path to contention, it’s hard to say that they won’t find themselves choosing between a contract extension in-house or paying out to a star free agent.
Paying even one of those players, on a max deal, is going to tie up Brooklyn’s books for the foreseeable future.
The Nets have a team option worth $2.6 million they can exercise for the 2019-2020 season. Some signs point to them declining to make that move, and trimming their young core.
Depth at the Two
The Nets were after Crabbe for quite some time, before trading for the guard in the 2017 offseason.
In July of 2016, he signed an offer sheet from Brooklyn worth four years and $75 million. Portland matched and exactly one year later, the Nets traded center Andrew Nicholson for the Trailblazers sixth man.
Now, Crabbe has spent one year calling Barclays Center home. He averaged a career-high 13.2 points and 4.3 rebounds per game on 38 percent shooting from deep.
It was considered a disappointing year for Crabbe after he shot a near-NBA best 44 percent from deep the prior year in Portland.
He was a streaky shooter at best for the Nets, and the numbers support such a criticism.
He would go from having poor shooting streaks like his 10.6 point average in December to a strong showing of 17.1 in February. Still, Crabbe finished the year on a high note with a 41-point performance in the last week of the regular season:
So, if Crabbe can build on this season from where he left off last year, he’ll be a sure-fire starting two guard. Leaving little chance of securing a bigger role despite the hard work being put in by LeVert.
That’s not going to change his motivation, however. A recent interview with Alex Squadron of SLAM Magazine proved LeVert is up to any task and all challenges that await in year three.
“I’m just preparing myself mentally and physically obviously to play whatever position need be, to do whatever is needed on the court,” he explains. “Whether that’s the point guard, shooting guard, small forward, whatever it may be. I’m trying to prepare myself mentally for whatever is being thrown at me.”
But in Brooklyn, what’s being thrown at him may not be all that appealing. It doesn’t help his case that Crabbe is already a proven complementary piece to a winning culture.
In Portland, he played behind Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, reaching the Western Conference Semi Finals in 2016. Crabbe averaged 9.5 points on 43 percent shooting from deep over 11 games.
Beyond Crabbe, there’s Harris, who just signed a two-year deal worth $16 million. After a very uneventful 56 appearances with the Cleveland Cavaliers, he signed with Brooklyn in 2016.
Since, he’s turned into a reliable sixth man and scorer off the bench. Harris averaged a career-high 10.8 points on 42 percent shooting from deep last season.
He hit a career-high 30 points against the Cleveland Cavaliers back in March on 6-for-7 shooting from beyond the arc:
Harris was the Nets top priority entering this summer, and they locked him into a contract almost immediately. His knack for scoring comes in many forms, and that versatility will pay dividends when the day they compete in the postseason finally comes.
Keeping all of this in mind, it’s hard to see how LeVert could make a push to surpass Crabbe and Harris on the depth chart.
Unless they truly fall apart next season, it’s just one more mark against his future in Brooklyn.
It doesn’t have to be now, but at some point, Brooklyn will have to address the future of Caris LeVert.
The Nets plans to land a star (or two) next summer, and their already established veteran two guards make his future all the more complicated.