Stranger things have happened, but it’s increasing difficult to see the Nets trading Caris LeVert this off-season. The signs that LeVert will be on the Nets roster whenever the NBA resumes play are everywhere.
On Nets website, Monday was “Caris LeVert Day” and while the marketing department doesn’t necessarily take it cues from basketball operations, the layout on the site and across social media suggested that the Nets guard is someone who if he isn’t at the center of things is a big part of the future.
There was a season recap filled with video of his highlights, a mixtape of his best moves, a photo gallery of his season and his footwear, a reprise of how well he and Jarrett Allen meshed in the “bubble.”
On social media, there were graphics to remind people of his 51-point explosion vs the Celtics with a quote, “I’m not thinking anything at that point. I’m just one possession at a time. That basked was so big.”
Even a video of how he became “a new Caris” in Orlando when he went with cornrows...
Then, Tuesday, YES posted this on Twitter...
More important, of course, were quotes from Kevin Durant and new head coach Steve Nash on his value to the team going forward. Durant even questioned the concepts of a third star.
“What ‘Big Threes’ are there in the league?” Durant asked. “I mean, the best teams in the league usually got two guys. Lakers, Clippers. Clippers got two bench players that are pretty good, but they usually have two stars.
“I think Caris is that perfect guy for us to, any given night he can lead us in scoring or lead us in assists or he can control the offense or we can go to him in the post in a matchup,” Durant said last week on J.J. Redick’s Old Man & The Three podcast. “I feel like he has the tools to do everything on the basketball court. On our team, we play unselfishly, and we’ve got guys that can play off the basketball so on any given night anybody can be the star.”
When KD was asked if LeVert could be the proverbial “third star,” he responded, “For sure, for sure.”
A month earlier, on another podcast, Durant admitted that LeVert had “surprised” him.
“He is definitely better than I thought. He’s different. He can score that thing. He can pass it. He’s quick. His thing is about being efficient, and I think that’s what you’re seeing,” Durant told the Play for Keeps podcast. “The shots he’s taking now, it’s like all of his lane. Not a lot of threes, a lot in the mid-range, getting to the cup. I think his IQ is what surprised me the most.”
Similarly, Nash called LeVert “a great piece for us.”
“I’ve known Caris for a few years and always admired his game. He’s a great piece for us,” Nash said on WFAN’s Joe & Evan on Friday. “The NBA seems to be increasingly about who can contain the ball, and vice versa, who can penetrate and create high-value shots.
“Caris is a guy who can attack and make the first domino fall. It’s about making these pieces fit together, and a lot is left to be determined, but Caris is versatile — he can start, he can maybe fit that (Manu) Ginobili role as a closer — but it’s exciting to have a player of his caliber, another player who loves the game.”
Ginobili, of course, was a Sixth Man of the Year, winning four titles with the Spurs and there are similarities, including their ability to score in bunches, to distribute and be a four-tool asset whenever he’s on the court.
Much of this can be attributed to what he did in Orlando. Arriving noticeably more bulked up, LeVert believed early on that he, Jarrett Allen and Joe Harris “could make some noise” in the “bubble,” admitting he relished the role of star on a Nets team devastated by injury and illness.
LeVert, who turned 26 just after leaving Orlando, averaged 25 points, nearly five rebounds and nearly seven assists in the six seeding games he played, plus 20 points, nearly six rebounds and nearly 10 assists in the playoffs (although his shooting numbers dropped with the Raptors keying on him with Harris out.)
Damian Lillard was among those who thought they saw something different in LeVert. Not long after their memorable battle in the final seeding game, LeVert finishing with 37, Lillard with 42, Lillard said LeVert is one of two players he can see taking a “big leap” next season.
Ima go with Caris Levert or Lonzo Ball https://t.co/eeHkuioZuN— Damian Lillard (@Dame_Lillard) September 4, 2020
LeVert, of course, has been mentioned prominently in any scenario or rumor for a big star, names like Bradley Beal or Zach LaVine (who KD said “has star potential” in that Redick podcast) . His contract, $52.5 million over three years, is likely going to be a bargain ... as long as he stays healthy, which is always a concern.
Also, as a player who signed a rookie extension just before the season, LeVert is on a “poison pill” contract, which disincentivizes trades. As Bleacher Report noted, “Trades involving anyone who falls under this umbrella need to include lopsided money swaps, which makes them exponentially difficult, verging on impossible, unless the receiving party is flush with cap space.”
That assumes, of course, the Nets would want to trade him who is increasingly a fan favorite not just because of his success on the court but because he, unlike KD and Kyrie Irving, is home grown, a testament to the Nets ability to develop diamonds in the rough.
- Kevin Durant confident that Nets’ ‘third star’ can be Caris LeVert - Ian Begley - SNY
- Should the Nets trade for a third star? Making a case for and a case against - Alex Schiffer - The Athletic New York