Maybe, just maybe, Caris LeVert is (slowly) breaking out of his slump.
Through his last three games, LeVert is shooting an improved 10-of-19 from the floor, or 52.6 percent shooting from the field. The improvement is leaps and bounds ahead of his 33.6 percent shooting in his first 10 games, a stretch where LeVert met an unwelcome, annoying foe named “the sophomore slump.”
LeVert shot only 25 percent from deep in the last three, but better than the 21 percent he shot in the first 10 games.
It’s true that LeVert’s scoring over the last three games has dropped to 8.7 points per game, but that’s probably more due to his new bench role. He’s gone from 28.1 minutes as a starter to 22.0 coming off the bench.
“I feel like my role really doesn’t change that much,” said LeVert, talking about the change. “As far as me playing on offense, it’s just (about) me making plays, making the right play (and) making the smart play. Just going there and playing my game so I don’t feel like it changes that much. I may have the ball in my hands a little bit more, but my decision-making and everything stays the same.”
LeVert has yet to find the next level of his offense, but he and the Nets remain positive about his development and the foundation he laid this past offseason, with a lot of work starting days after the season’s end and progressing through Summer League, summer scrimmages, workouts, and finally training camp. They believe the second-year swingman will ultimately take that next step, not only this season, but soon.
A lot of people in the organization are counting on that development. Even Joe Tsai, the team’s prospective minority owner, talked about how much he likes LeVert in China over the weekend.
“I feel like I put in the work this summer so there’s no reason to be frustrated,” said LeVert after Monday’s practice in Brooklyn. “Everybody goes through something like that at some point. My teammates and my coaches told me to stay positive. I just trust the work I’ve done all summer.”
“My mindset hasn’t changed,” he continued. “The type of shots that I’m taking hasn’t changed. I just feel like at some point they’re going to start falling. I have confidence.”
Kenny Atkinson highlighted LeVert’s defense when discussing his struggles from the floor. LeVert has brought it defensively in spite of his offensive troubles to this point, and the Nets still trust him in big spots when guarding some of the opposition’s premiere talent from time to time.
“I wouldn’t say he’s struggling with his play; he’s struggling with his shot a little,” Atkinson said of LeVert. “He’s 10-for-19 over his last three games, so he’s starting to trend better. I think he’s still trying to find his niche. Last year he kind of found his niche. He had the ball in his hands more. We changed some pieces. He hasn’t really found his role yet. We’ll do a better job of defining it.
“I’d say that’s where he is right now, again, his bread and butter’s got to be his defense,” Atkinson adds of LeVert, who recorded a career-best five steals at Phoenix on November 6. “His defensive energy … that’s where he’s got to hang his hat.”
Regarding his offense, Atkinson has kept the message to LeVert simple: keep shooting.
“We’re going to keep encouraging him to shoot it,” said Atkinson. “That’s our mentality. We trust him. We tell him just ‘trust your work,’ you’ve put in a lot of work. Just keep trusting it.”