Caris LeVert is one of the most intriguing pieces not just on the Brooklyn Nets roster, but in the NBA. He possesses a two-way upside that not many others around the league do. The utility showed great jumps across the board. His assist jump from 1.9 in his rookie season to 4.2 last season was the most noticeable. That came with greater responsibility and a wonderful tandem with fellow youngster, Jarrett Allen.
In 28 of his 71 games, LeVert had 5 assists or more, further evidence of his incredible growth as a facilitator. He also showed an uptick as a scorer. Caris scored 15 points or more in 21 games, including 6 games with 20 points or more.
LeVert was awesome in one of the Nets most dominant wins of the season over the Heat. He finished with one of his 3 double-doubles for the season (12 points, 11 assists) and a gargantuan +28 when we have on the court. Coach Atkinson also praised his defensive efforts.
“I loved his defense. He was picking up full court and getting into the ball defensively.
It was by no means a perfect defensive performance though. As is the case for many young players in the league, he had a lapse in concentration which almost leads to an open three for Miami.
LeVert doesn’t need to make that double team down low despite some misgivings from Allen throughout the season. Having the awareness of where his opponent is is far more important, especially when it leads to open shots on the perimeter.
Despite a great night against Miami, by the end of March Kenny had changed his tune.
“We want better defense from him. He’s slipped a little from last year, quite honestly.”
The good thing, LeVert was on the same page as his coach.
“I feel like this year I’ve just got to be more consistent with it. Taking every possession and making it like it’s your last. Don’t take any possession for granted.”
With all his ups and downs throughout the season, the team was still better defensively when he was out there. Opponents had an offensive rating of 111.3 when he was out there and 111.5 when he wasn’t. It’s a minor difference but it shows he wasn’t a liability when apart of the team’s defense.
Further numbers show that LeVert is far from hitting his defensive ceiling. According to Cleaning the Glass, he’s in just the 40th percentile in points allowed per 100 possessions. Additionally, he’s in the 43rd percentile for opponent’s effective field goal percentage.
Conversely, he did lead Brooklyn in steals (1.2) and deflections (when discounting the solitary game from Jeremy Lin) per game (2.3). His 1.2 steals per game were also good enough for equal 2nd best in the league among sophomores.
These types of plays should give Kenny and Nets fans hope that LeVert really does turn into something special on the defensive end.
His active hands and rangy athleticism even had ESPN senior writer, Zach Lowe, touting him as an All-Defense prospect.
Staying engaged for the entirety of his playing time on both ends is going to be key for Caris taking the leap from a player with potential to a legitimately capable and consistent defensive presence.
For LeVert to fully reach his ceiling as a player he’ll need to continue his development as a perimeter shooter. When delving into the numbers a little closer you notice where his specific spots are. 76 of his 85 (89%) made threes last season came from above the break.
What bodes well for him as well is the form; it’s very fluid and compact. He just needs to continue making them at a more consistent rate (he shot 34.7% last season).
The elite guards also make the off the dribble three look easy. LeVert himself was quite good at them, per NBA.com.
Catch & Shoot
The fact that his percentages were better with 1 or 2 dribbles shows that he’s got some skills in that area. The pull up needs some work but that should come with increased responsibility and confidence. If he can get that number closer to the 35% range and his total 3-point percentage can increase to around 37-38%, then it’ll add another dimension to his game that will make him so much more dangerous.
Defense and 3-point shooting are the main areas for LeVert to focus on going into the 2018-19 season. An uptick in his rebounding wouldn’t hurt either. For guards in the 6’7-6’10 range, Caris was 13th overall (3.7 RPG), around the mark of players like Mario Hezonja (3.7), Klay Thompson (3.8) and DeMar DeRozan (3.9). A slight increase to around the 4 per game range would give him a more well-rounded game while also allowing him to control transition offense even more, like in the plays below.
The third season for many players is one where they break out and set themselves up for an extended NBA career. That will certainly be the case as he looks to expand and improve upon his game going into an intriguing season for him and the team.