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Caris LeVert happy he made it, ready for next steps

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2016 NBA Rookie Photo Shoot Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images

It’s reflection time for the Brooklyn Nets, so Caris LeVert offered some perspective via Twitter overnight after the team’s season ending April 12 loss in Chicago.

The Michigan man put together an All-Rookie Team Award worthy season (see Zach Lowe), posting per 36-minute tallies of 13.6 points, 5.5 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.4 steals, with a shooting line of 45-32-72, all of which are better than second overall pick Brandon Ingram, who had a similar situation with the Lakers.

Beyond the numbers, LeVert opted to channel his inner DJ Khaled on Thursday when meeting with reporters.

“I would say I’m extremely blessed to be in this position,” said the 6’7” blue-chip prospect. “(I played) a full season, not a lot of people can say that. I’m very fortunate – I felt like I grew over the season and learned a lot. That’s definitely going to pay dividends in the off-season and going into next year. It’s refreshing to see that you belong and you’re doing your part in this league, especially at a young age. That was definitely rewarding to see for sure.”

LeVert, who finished the season scoring a bit over 8 points in around 22 minutes per contest, demonstrated why he’s worthy of such hype toward the tail end of the season, where the Nets became a near .500 team from March 1 onward.

In 23.7 minutes per contest as a starter, LeVert put up nearly 10 points per contest, four rebounds, two assists, a shooting line of 48.4/35/71.4 percent, a substantial defensive effort, making him one of the best rookies during that span. Not to mention that with him, Jeremy Lin and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson joining Brook Lopez and Randy Foye, the Nets were 11-13 over those 24 games. That’s a 38-win pace over a full season.

Coming off of multiple foot surgeries, LeVert was viewed as a lottery talent, but was projected as a second round draft pick in most mock drafts ahead of the 2016 festivities. As he said, he was grateful to simply make it through. He also says that there was a definite transitional period on arrival in the NBA, beyond a simple wake-up call that ‘hey, you’re in the NBA!’

“I would say the speed of the game was tough to adjust to,” LeVert said. “Sitting out a full year, adjusting to anything would be different. These are professional players too, grown men, so that was a tough thing to adjust to. (Starting) was big for me though because I didn’t play at the beginning of the season, I was doing rehab and things like that. For him (Kenny Atkinson) to show that amount of confidence, and for my teammates to show that amount of confidence in me was huge.”

As coach Atkinson said on multiple occasions throughout the season, LeVert came in with a reputation as a 3-and-D guy, though the three took a little longer to come around as the rookie spent a good portion of the season shooting in the high 20’s before swishing his way to respectability after the All-Star Break.

“I think I got used to the (NBA) three-point line as this season went on…this summer that will be another huge jump for me as well,” LeVert said when discussing his desire to improve from deep. “I sat out for so long – the college line is a lot different from the NBA line, so this off-season will definitely be huge for me in that aspect.”

As Zach Lowe wrote in naming LeVert to his All-Rookie Team...

LeVert is ready for bigger things. He shot 45 percent overall and 33 percent from deep after a chilly start, and he just reads the game well on both ends. He has a quick first step, good passing vision, and the ability to run a pick-and-roll in a pinch. He can defend across at least three positions. He was a big part of Brooklyn's late-season friskiness. He's an easy fit in winning lineups; the Nets outscored opponents with LeVert, Lopez, and Jeremy Lin on the floor, and outscoring people is generally not what the Nets have done the past two years.

Asked for his thoughts on the team moving forward, LeVert echoed the unanimous sentiments heard from his Brooklyn brethren: optimism, motivation, and unfinished business.

Between December 28 and February 28, the Nets won one game out of 28, largely attributed to Lin’s injury. LeVert, however, says that the Nets weren’t shaken, and maintained a consistent demeanor through those low points. There was little difference then and their temperament late in the season, when wins became the norm.

“When we went through that tough stretch in January – our attitude was the exact same as it was toward the end of the season where we were close to .500; when we went on that three-game win streak it was the exact same,” he said. “We have the right guys in the locker room. Everybody has the right attitude so I’m real excited going into next year.”