The Brooklyn Nets STILL have a crowded depth chart in the backcourt rotation heading into the 2018-19 season ... even after the trades that sent Jeremy Lin and Isaiah Whitehead packing.
D’Angelo Russell will of course run the point guard position and be the floor general as well but he’ll have plenty of company.
The logjam begins off the bench. The Nets have Spencer Dinwiddie, Shabazz Napier, and Caris LeVert who can and are expected to play minutes at the point. Then, there’s shooting guards Joe Harris, Allen Crabbe, Treveon Graham and even rookies Dzanan Musa and Theo Pinson.
So, with such depth at guard, might the Nets look to trade away one of that group? Could they test the market on Dinwiddie? And how much of a problem would Nets have filling the gap?
Dinwiddie has drawn interest dating back to the 2018 trade deadline when the Cavaliers offered their own first round pick (which after a trade became Moritz Wagner). Brooklyn said no. The Suns reportedly had internal discussions last week about the Nets breakout, but no deal has been discussed ... as far as we know. If the Nets do decide to deal Dinwiddie, they will look to get a first round pick in return.
Shabazz Napier, the former Portland Trail Blazers guard, signed a two-year deal with Brooklyn this off-season, and brings good off-the-ball play and more point guard depth. Napier is one of four current Nets signed past 2018-19. If Napier is not dealt, the Nets can rely on him for the 2019-20 season.
There is yet another player that Nets general manager Sean Marks has on hand for point guard insurance; Caris LeVert.
LeVert had a great run in December last season. The 24-year-old received a good amount of time at the point due to Russell’s injury and Dinwiddie’s foul troubles.
In December, the 6’7” Swiss Army Knife averaged 14.3 points, 5.3 assists, 3.5 rebounds, and 1.3 steals. He was a consistent asset, shooting 49 percent from the field and 45 percent from behind the arc. He seem suited to the position.
LeVert went on to play a total of 30 games at the point guard position. In those 30 games, he recorded 27.2 minutes, 13.2 points, and 4.8 assists -- solid averages for an NBA point guard.
“I think (I) adapted, and had more opportunity,” LeVert said back then. “Obviously with D’Angelo being hurt for a majority of the season – and then sometimes when Spencer (Dinwiddie) gets in foul trouble, I’m forced to play a little bit more on the ball.”
The Nets acquired LeVert when the former Michigan Wolverine slid to the 20th overall pick, which Brooklyn owned after trading Thaddeus Young to Indiana. Marks knew the potential of LeVert, despite worries about his prior injury.
“Sean told me when we drafted him, he kept emphasizing ‘This kid can play point guard ... eventually,’” said Nets coach Kenny Atkinson. “That was the thought process and I was ‘Eh ... you know. We’ll see.’”
During his two-year run with Brooklyn, the Nets have done a good job developing LeVert. He is still evolving, and looking to become an all-around player for the Nets. Would it be best if he had one position or if finds minutes at a number of positions?
LeVert is ready to embrace any role Atkinson assigned to him.
“I’m just preparing myself mentally and physically obviously to play whatever position need be, to do whatever is needed on the court,” he’s said. “Whether that’s the point guard, shooting guard, small forward, whatever it may be. I’m trying to prepare myself mentally for whatever is being thrown at me.”
Despite a crowded point guard rotation for the Brooklyn Nets in 2018-19, we will likely see LeVert get some minutes at playmaker, but that doesn’t necessarily mean point guard. In the Nets system, playmaker has a much broader definition. He is expected to have a breakout season as he heads toward free agency in 2020.
LeVert has a lot of fans in the NBA and other teams have made enticing offers for him over the year and a half he’s been with the club.
And a Dinwiddie trade may not be the only move that could see him get more minutes down the road.
Brooklyn also has some decision-making to do with DLo. The Nets have until October to reach a rookie scale extension with him. If an extension isn’t reached by then, Russell will become a restricted free agent after the 2018-19 season.
So, LeVert brings the needed point guard insurance in case of a trade or a point guard departure in 2019. Or alternately, if he keeps improving, he rather than Dinwiddie could become a piece in a trade for a star. There are some who believe the Nets signing of Napier was calculated to Sean Marks added flexibility down the line.
LeVert is a humble fellow who has a playmaking skill set. He can shoot the ball consistently from behind the arc and has excellent court vision. In addition, LeVert is an aggressive driver who does a great job creating space with his footwork and penetration. He uses his strength and frame to absorb contact and finish. But he admits he does like the point.
“That’s just naturally how I play,” said LeVert of his point guard attributes, which have him dishing out 5.3 assists per game since March 4. “I don’t know if I would say (I was) eager to show it. It just comes out when I play the game. I think that’s one of the things you see right away, just how unselfish I am on the court. I don’t really care about stats or anything like that, I just want to win.”
And Atkinson now admits, “He definitely has that in his DNA.”