With change appearing all but imminent, and Caris LeVert struggling, will he still be a Brooklyn Nets employee entering the 2020-21 NBA season?
Fit matters. That’s not to undermine the value of talent, but incorporating the right pieces around your most valuable talent plays a huge role in what level of success your team will or will not have. Caris LeVert, a predestined NBA All-Star whose upside reached tantalizing levels, isn’t the most valuable talent on the Brooklyn Nets.
He’s also not the second-most valuable talent, or third, hell, maybe even fourth. Spencer Dinwiddie’s importance to this team has become glaringly obvious and Jarrett Allen is emerging as a pick-and-roll aficionado and defensive anchor.
That means for LeVert to cement his status with this roster, he’d have to alter his game to complement the team’s talent. Thus far, he hasn’t. And that could mean a change of scenery entering the 2020-21 NBA season.
LeVert epitomizes the strength of the Nets’ current regime and was one of their faces for a cultural movement that became loved around the league. In Sean Marks’s first summer as the general manager of the Nets, he traded away Thaddeus Young—one of the team’s best players in the prime of his career— to the Pacers for that year’s 20th overall draft pick, Caris LeVert.
That was one transaction, amongst many, that symbolized a turning of the tide for a franchise still suffering from an infamous trade with the Boston Celtics that gambled away the future for a brief shot at glory.
LeVert showed promise his rookie campaign, elevated his game as a sophomore, looked destined for an NBA All-Star appearance before a gruesome injury his following season, and now in his fourth, looks lost on the court and his future with the team is in jeopardy.
So, how have we got here? How has this player with seemingly endless potential not a franchise cornerstone on a team that has championship aspirations?
When you look at last year’s playoff series against the Philadelphia 76ers, that proverbial jump to stardom seemed in the bag for LeVert. Why would I advocate for his departure?
Well, situations change… things change; it’s an unfortunate reality in this life. And with those changes, some individuals get the short end of the stick. With Kyrie Irving added in this previous summer, as well as Kevin Durant, LeVert’s skill set has become a tad redundant.
He’s a player that needs the ball in his hands to succeed. When there are other primary ball-handlers on the court, his skill set diminishes. He’s a subpar catch and shoot threat from the perimeter (29.7 percent on 1.8 attempts per game) and has repeatedly disrupted the flow of the offense when the ball enters his hands.
In that incredible series against the Sixers, he put up 21.0 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 3.0 assists on 49.3/46.2/72.4 splits. However, he also had a usage rate of 26.9 percent as the team’s unofficial second option beside D’Angelo Russell.
This year, he has a career-high in usage (27.1 percent), but he’s also only played 22 games with 13 of those games as the de facto floor general for the Nets’ second-unit. It is notable that there is hope for him to be a mercenary relentlessly attacking opponents’ second units. In fact, LeVert and Spencer Dinwiddie have a net rating of +3.5 in the 295 minutes of court time shared. That seems like a fun, cool idea having those two absolutely ravage every bench in the league.
However, though depth is important in its own right, let’s be honest: owning a “third star” is more appealing.
When the Nets signed Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, it was an announcement to the NBA spectrum that they mean business. They want to be playing basketball in June in the near future, and obtaining another star to complement them makes the process a little less daunting.
So, keeping a player that is one of the team’s worst defenders, doesn’t necessarily fit well with your best talent, but could be a phenomenal bench presence, might not be the ideal move.
— NBA Math (@NBA_Math) January 27, 2020
Although charts or graphs should never be the end-all-be-all in terms of a player’s value on the court—just ask Kevin Durant—the graph above illustrates LeVert’s struggles in acclimating himself with this revamped roster to a tee.
Only Dinwiddie scored lower in “Defensive Points Saved” and only Taurean Prince scored lower in “Offensive Points Added.”
What I’m saying is: If it comes down to LeVert having to be added to a trade package to make a significant transaction this summer, he should not be off the table.
In 284 minutes LeVert has shared the floor with Irving, the two have a net rating of -10.7. It’s looked awkward, it’s looked clunky; the sample size may not be overwhelming, but it’s been rather clear.
You want to spread the floor with a player of Irving’s capabilities, and Kevin Durant, for that matter. Figuring out how LeVert would fit in that equation with his offensive approach is confusing.
Now there are still 35 more games to be played this regular season. Perhaps LeVert figures out his role as the sixth man and begins to flourish. Perhaps he and Dinwiddie continue their on-court chemistry and prove to be a dynamic threat at the Nets’ disposal next year.
Or—and I am just going throw this out there—perhaps he should be moved in the best interest of the team this upcoming summer. He’s a great individual, his smile is infectious and he’s been a poster boy for this rebuild, but it’s no longer a rebuild—it’s time to win. If he can’t prove to be a contributor to winning basketball in these next 35 games… Marks has showcased how ruthless he can be in the past.