There’s been so much talk about the Nets backcourt logjam, particularly with Jeremy Lin’s optimism that after two injury-filled seasons, he expects to be back at a high level next season. There’s Lin and D’Angelo Russell and Spencer Dinwiddie and Caris LeVert and Isaiah Whitehead.
Some may not be at HSS Training Center come October and the Nets have said they will take the “best player available” in the Draft and he (or they!) could add to the aforementioned logjam.
All that said, the Nets season already led to a shakeout of sorts ... in the future. Long-term, it’s hard not to see Russell (22) and LeVert (23) as Brooklyn’s Backcourt. Both can play the 1 or the 2 and Kenny Atkinson has repeatedly said he loves versatility ... and big guards.
Recent profiles of the two portray them as wanting more.
“All around I feel like it was a wavy season, up and down,” Russell told Tom Dowd of the Nets official website. “A lot of adversity happened that we couldn’t really control, but I think we did as well as we could. For myself, could always be better. Learning myself as a player better and better, so I feel like going into the offseason I have a better feeling what I can do to better myself.
“I just want to get better every year,” said Russell. “I don’t know what my ceiling is. I feel like a lot of guys come out, just from the norm of the league watching guys throughout the years, you see guys come out of nowhere, you see guys, they’re in their prime that you never even knew you had a prime. I just want to get better every year and go from there.”
LeVert described his season in terms of comfort level.
“I don’t know, I would say just how comfortable I’m getting,” LeVert told Ben Nadeau of Basketball Insiders. “My game hasn’t changed all that much, honestly, I’m still getting more comfortable out on the court. But it’s just getting more playing time, more experience and I feel like I’ll grow more into my game...
“I feel like I got a lot better on both ends of the ball as the season went on,” LeVert told Basketball Insiders. “Also feel like I learned a couple more positions this year and got comfortable playing them. But I still got a long way to go. You know, it’s only my second year, obviously, but I feel like I definitely made new strides this year.”
The two didn’t play a lot this season, with DLo starting and CLV coming off the bench and their numbers weren’t very good. The Russell-LeVert two-man lineup was -148 in 466 minutes, the second worst two-man lineup for the Nets this season.
On the other hand, together they averaged almost 28 points and 10 assists a game. They both showed more than enough sparks to mark them as starters down the road, barring some major and unexpected moves. The eye test can sometimes be more alluring that than the analytics.
There was Russell’s opening night which got lost in the news of Lin’s knee injury. He poured in 30 points while shooting 4-of-8 from 3-point range and 12-of-22 overall. He also handed out five assists.
Then, after his return, there was his triple double on March 23. His 18/11/13 were the Nets first triple-double in eight years.
For LeVert, the big game was in Miami on March 31 when he went for 19 points, 12 rebounds, eight assists, two steals and block in just over 34 minutes. This season, as Nadeau points out, the Nets were 7-1 when LeVert registered eight or more assists and even topped out with a career-best 11 dimes.
More importantly, both showed some excellent court vision ... and had issues as well, like defense and turnovers for DLo and consistency for CLV. But that’s to be expected from players who aren’t just young, but have had to spend a lot of time on the bench recuperating from injuries.
As Kenny Atkinson said in his end-of-season press conference, the team’s struggles led to surprises, “I think positive things do come out of it. You learn that Caris LeVert can play point guard!”
Next season, there will be a shakeout. Once the Nets figure out what to do with all their guards, expect to see Russell and LeVert teaming up more, giving fans more than just an eye test to measure their efficiency. Having a lot of guards can lead to a lot of fan hand-wringing but when they show potential like these two, that is not a bad thing. It is a very good thing.
- NBA Daily: The Comfortability of Caris LeVert - Ben Nadeau - Basketball Insiders
- Nets offseason player evaluations: D’Angelo Russell - Michael Scotto - The Athletic New York
- BROOKLYN NETS SEASON REVIEW: D’ANGELO RUSSELL - Tom Dowd - Brooklyn Nets