A lot has been made of Caris LeVert’s expected jump this coming season, but another name gained sizable traction during preseason.
Take it from LeVert himself.
Asked who has surprised him thus far, he responded with Rodions Kurucs, the 2018 Net second round draft pick, who likely would’ve been a first-rounder in 2017 had he remained in the draft, and who averaged 7.8 points and 4.5 rebounds during preseason despite only logging 12 minutes per contest.
“I’m going to go with the rookie, Rodi,” said LeVert Tuesday. “I didn’t know anything about him, really, coming in. But just kind of how hard he plays, his feel for the game, being in the right spots and things like that, he’s definitely somebody fun to play with.
“He caught my eye from the first day he came in it seemed like a week or two after the draft or something like that. We kind of saw that he can be really special,” raved LeVert of Kurucs, who had an outstanding showing in his first (and so far only) game at Barclays Center earlier this month against the Knicks (in preseason).
With the Nets already blindsided by injury to begin their 2018-19 season, opportunity may await Kurucs – who is 6’10” with an 8’11” standing reach – to crack the rotation. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson’s status is to be determined, and DeMarre Carroll is out for an unknown period of time. Kurucs, a versatile 4 who’s said he can play the 2 and 4 as well, should see some time.
“You know, Rodi has played that 4 position and has played well, said Kenny Atkinson. In fact, Atkinson had high praise for the young Latvian on Tuesday, citing his fearlessness, and also noted that there will be growing pains.
“I think with the fearlessness; we’re going to have to take a few mistakes. I think he could turn it over a few times. I think in the Knicks game he took a couple questionable shots ... a jab, jab three in the corner which we didn’t love. But then I think of all the good things he did. Like his energy, how he gets after it on the boards. How he runs the court, how he cuts, how he slashes. Definitely we’ve seen a ton of good. We’re going to have to accept some mistakes along the way.”
And it’s not just LeVert and Atkinson. D’Angelo Russell has spoken about how he saw some of those same qualities in the 20-year-old.
“Same thing, same thing. He’s active, he’s athletic, he plays hard, he knows his role. He knows what he’s capable of. He never steps outside the box. He’s the guy that plays hard and brings that energy,” said Russell.