Caris LeVert’s development went into another gear when the Nets decided to move the second-year swingman into a new role: holding down significant minutes at point guard minutes.
To say that it’s working would be an understatement.
Over the last 10 games, LeVert’s averaged 13 points and 5.3 assists while coming off the bench for all but one game and playing about 28 minutes per game. Kenny Atkinson put him at the 1 after the team found itself without much depth at the point.
In Tuesday’s win over the Washington Wizards, he finished 16 points and eight assists while shooting 50% from the floor (4-for-8), and 75% from three (3-for-4).
Two games ago, LeVert’s crowning performance this season (so far) came in Mexico City, where the Nets beat the Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony-led Thunder by five. LeVert logged 30 minutes and destroyed OKC for 21 points, 10 assists, five rebounds and zero turnovers. The last time a Nets point guard had a game of 20/10/5 without a turnover was Deron Williams, who did it in April 2015.
The performance came one night after he put up 17 points and six assists in a 20-point win in Atlanta against the Hawks.
He’s had some games in this stretch at the point where the stat sheet also included a ‘3’ or ‘4’ next to the word, “turnover” but overall, the 6’7” Michigan product has had more than a healthy amount of success.
He says that his focus has to be control.
"Just slowing down is the main thing,” he said after the Nets’ victory Tuesday. “Some of my turnovers and bad plays are just me going too fast and trying to adjust to the speed of the game. But I feel like when I’m going at my pace when I slow down, the game is easy."
LeVert adds that he’s been watching more film as of late, as this isn’t all new to him.
Some may not recall, but LeVert was a dominant ball-handler while at Michigan, specifically in his last two seasons as a Wolverine. (Ironically, it came after he lost his roommate — now his current teammate — Nik Stauskas to early NBA Draft entry.)
LeVert’s settling in to the expanded role, gaining confidence with each passing game. "I feel like I'm real comfortable,” he said. “I've been doing it for a couple of games now and the game is slowing down for me. I feel like it's showing out there on the court.
“I think for me the main thing is limiting my turnovers and just playing my game. Letting the game slow down and not thinking too much while at the same time making the game easier for everybody else,” he added.
It also helps that while in the system, Atkinson doesn’t hammer home half-court set after half-court set, like, I don’t know, a triangle or something. LeVert says that Atkinson and the coaching staff encourage the young guard, and their players, to go with what they know.
"They just tell me to play my game and just follow my instincts,” LeVert said. “They give me reads out there but we get a lot of freedom in the office. Kenny gives us a lot of freedom. For me, it's just going out there and trusting my instincts."
So far, his instincts have been good.