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Caris LeVert likely to be center piece of Nets summer ... until he isn’t

Brooklyn Nets v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Chris Elise/NBAE via Getty Images

NBA free agency, like everything else, is up in the air but one thing seems certain: the Nets summer will revolve around Caris LeVert’s future. If the Nets front office believes the soon-to-be fifth year player is a third star, behind Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving look for them to have a less active off-season than if they think they need to acquire a star or superstar in a trade.

As any Nets fan can tell you, LeVert had a hell of a week before the NBA suspended play: a 51-point game in a win over the Celtics (only the ninth 50 point game the Nets NBA history) and a triple-double vs. the Spurs. Not to mention his 22 points vs. the Lakers in the Nets biggest win of the season.

As Brian Lewis notes, it all started when, after another injury, he was reinserted in the starting line-up.

Once he was reinserted into the starting lineup on Feb. 3 against Phoenix, he averaged 24.1 points, 5.3 assists and 4.8 rebounds with 41.3 percent shooting from deep — the only player in the Eastern Conference to average 24-5-4 in that stretch (minimum 10 games played).

Jacque Vaughn said the big difference is confidence.

“It’s amazing even at this level how confidence plays into his ability to shoot and make the 3-ball, which really changes how you have to defend him. But overall, he’s more healthy. … He’s healthy and he’s playing very confident.”

So, that sounds like what a star might produce, how a star might act, particularly since his big games in Boston and L.A. were also big wins for the Nets. He stepped up. On the other hand, there are issues with his injury and, to a lesser extent, his efficiency, as our Matt Brooks noted,

The numbers for LeVert injuries are almost as well known as his recent production. He missed 25 games his rookie season recovering from a broken foot he suffered at Michigan, then 42 last season to a dislocated leg and 24 this season to thumb ligament surgery.

Still, everyone from Spencer Dinwiddie to Adrian Wojnarowski have endorsed LeVert as a potential third star. If he’s not, the question is not so much that he’d be traded for a star but that Sean Marks might be tempted to move Dinwiddie and Jarrett Allen if he doesn’t fill the bill.

No doubt there will be trade offers for LeVert. He’s attracted interest in the past. In fact, the Timberwolves and Nets engaged in trade talks centered on LeVert early in his career, according to an insider. (The same trade talks reportedly involved Jeremy Lin and Ricky Rubio.)

In addition to his skills and recent record, LeVert is being paid the next three years at a very reasonable rate: $52.6 million over three. That also makes him attractive to another team and maybe even more so to the Nets.