Brooklyn Nets: Can anything stop rising star Caris LeVert?

(Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
(Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images) /

Brooklyn Nets small forward Caris LeVert looked like an All-Star before his injury last season. What should Nets fans expect in 2019-20?

Ever since entering the University of Michigan as an under the radar three-star recruit, Brooklyn Nets small forward Caris LeVert has been on a steady trajectory of improvement. There’s only been one thing that’s gotten in his way: injuries.


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After his sophomore season, LeVert underwent surgery to repair a stress fracture in his left foot. In January of his junior year, he re-injured the same foot and missed the remainder of the season.

He was on track to turn pro, but the injury seemed to hurt his draft stock, causing LeVert to return for his senior year. In March of that season, a leg injury ended his college career and he had a third surgical procedure in 22 months on his foot.

Despite the injury concerns, LeVert was drafted 20th overall by the Indiana Pacers in the 2016 draft and was traded to the Nets one month later.

The doctor who performed LeVert’s most recent foot surgery was on Brooklyn’s medical staff at the time, which surely helped the organization get comfortable.

NBA progression

After recovering from his injury, the 6-7, 204 pound LeVert made his NBA debut in December 2016. His rookie year wasn’t overly notable, but he got the chance to develop and was able to avoid additional serious injury.

In his second season, LeVert showed improvement on both sides of ball, showing significant potential as both a defender and a ball-handler.

He even got some “injury luck” for once. With D’Angelo Russell and Jeremy Lin dealing with injuries, LeVert got additional opportunities and showcased himself well. Arguably more importantly, he avoided injuries and played 71 games.

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The 24-year-old came out on fire last season (his third season), posting a then-career-high 27 points in the season opener. He was averaging a team-high 19 points per game and many felt he was on track to be an All-Star.

But with LeVert taking maybe his biggest developmental leap, the injury bug caught him again. On Nov. 12, he suffered a serious right leg injury that was later diagnosed as a subtalar dislocation of his right foot, keeping him out until February.

The Nets eased LeVert back into things upon his return and the small forward averaged 11.2 points in the final 26 regular-season games. He started showing signs of his old self in the last few games, which led to a strong postseason performance.

Although Brooklyn lost in five games to the Philadelphia 76ers, LeVert averaged 21 points on 49.3 percent shooting.

LeVert’s injury history is a little concerning moving forward, but it’s possible the left foot injury that plagued him is a thing of  the past and last season’s injury won’t manifest itself again either.

Attacking the basket

LeVert has found success as a slasher since entering the league. Most of his shots, 68.1 percent, were 2-pointers last season and 21.9 percent of his overall shots came from the restricted area feet (per basketball-reference).

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Although he flashed some solid finishing ability, LeVert still has room to improve in terms of efficiency, as he made only 58.1 percent between at the rim. This is a fine percentage, but NBA teams averaged 65.8 percent on these attempts last season.

3-point shot

The reason LeVert has operated so much inside the arc is that he is still developing his jump shot. He’s made only 32.9 percent of 3-pointers over the course of his career, but it’s encouraging that he’s not been afraid to take them (averaged 3.9 attempts last season).

Besides LeVert’s work ethic and track record of improvement, there are statistical reasons to be optimistic about his shot going forward. Although he made only 31.2 percent from long range last season, he shot 34.9 percent on difficult pull-up 3-point attempts (31.5 percent prior season).

He was one of only 22 players last season to average at least at least 2.1 pull-up three attempts per game and shoot greater than or equal to 34.0 percent on these attempts (per basketball-reference).

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LeVert’s percentage was actually brought down by the “easier” catch-and-shoot shots, which he only made 27.3 percent of last season. It’s not as if the small forward has an issue with these shots either, as he made 36.9 percent of them the season prior.

The low catch-and-shoot percentage last season feels like a bit of a fluke. If a player makes pull-up shots at LeVert’s success rate, the catch-and-shoot percentage should inevitably catch up sooner rather than later.

There was another fluke that should also bode well for his 3-point percentage moving forward. He shot only 24-for-88 (27.3 percent) last season on “six or more feet, wide open” 3-point attempts. Even though LeVert isn’t a great shooter, he’s better than this.

Again, it’s not as if he has an issue with these shots, as he made 55-of-161 (34.2 percent) the season prior.

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LeVert’s catch-and-shoot and wide-open percentages will likely improve next season. With some offseason improvement, there’s plenty of reason to expect LeVert to shoot at least 34.0 percent from long range.

Playmaking ability

LeVert has shown plenty of positive signs as a ball-handler in his three years in the league. He’s not only scored off the dribble but been a solid operator in the pick-and-roll, creating shots for others.

He still has room to improve in this regard, but the statistics indicate he’s on the right track.

Among players that played greater than or equal to 40 games last season, only 13 had an assist rate greater than or equal to 23.2 percent AND a turnover rate less than or equal to 11.4% (per basketball-reference).

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Kyrie Irving will likely be the primary ball-handler next season, but LeVert and Spencer Dinwiddie will get their fair share as well. There will be even less “ball” to go around when Kevin Durant enters the fold, but that’s a future problem.

If LeVert ends up playing more off-the-ball however, this will make the development of his jump shot even more important.

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It could be a blessing for LeVert’s development to not have Durant around next season, as he should get plenty of opportunities. He’s under contract for one more season (currently a bargain at $2.6 million), and with a strong year, he should be in for quite the pay bump.