Caris LeVert
Caris LeVert

With Caris Back, These Nets Should Make A Run

As fast as it came, it was gone. Oh, the trade deadline. We are just days  past it and it already feels like the rush and the moves and the nerves and the transactions and the Woj-Bombs took place ages ago. The sand isn’t yet settled, though. The buyout market is wide open and we’re already seeing players go here and there, moving places like burning trading cards in some kid’s hands.

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Even if you have not been paying that much attention to the NBA market this past week, you have heard about what all happened. Maybe because you have Twitter, or because you just open your internet browser daily, you’d be lying to say you hadn’t checked out any of the hoops news from the deadline? Anthony Davis remains a Pelican. Philadelphia went all in. The Grizzlies are no more. Whatever.

The thing I cared most about was Brooklyn’s front office. And Brooklyn’s honchos did nothing except make a trade with Toronto in which they obtained Greg Monroe—already cut—and a 2021 second-round pick in exchange for cash considerations. And nothing was, in my opinion, the perfect thing for Brooklyn to do. I already told you about it a few days ago. I wanted the Nets to remain level-headed, to not fool around, to not go for the chip way earlier than they should with ill-advised moves like one for Davis that would have depleted the roster of its beautiful young assets. The Nets won the day to my eyes.

But there is more to all this stay-put approach. Oh yes, there is. Look at what happened on February 8th when the Brooklyn Boys faced the already Otto Porter-driven Bulls in a home loss that put the Nets record at a 29-28 mark, still over .500 with more than two-thirds of the season already played out. (You can read it again, and the outcome won’t change. Brooklyn lost against a definitely bad Bulls team that miraculously found an over-average performance by Lauri Markkanen to lift them and award Chicago the win. Cold world.) Instead of focusing on the outcome of the game (which is what matters at the end of the day, but bear with me here), take a look at the box score for a minute and on the low part of it you’ll find a name. A name that surely looks on par with the best additions other teams made during Woj’s Thursday. The name you say? Caris LeVert.

We endured 42 games. November 12 to February 8. Too long, if you ask me. But consider what happened back then and where we are at now. A dislocated foot can drag one for months. Not two months. Three or four at the minimum, or so they say. It is a bizarre and weird injury that doesn’t happen often. But it was Caris’ fate to endure it, even while he was starting for the first time in his three-year pro career for the team that actually made the call to draft him back in 2016. (Because while history books will tell you it was Indiana that made the pick and you saw LeVert get to the podium and put on the Pacers hat, it was already known that the Nets were getting the 20th overall pick and a future 2nd-rounder while sending Thaddeus Young to Indiana.)

Injuries were already the talk of the day when he got picked, don’t be fooled. Concerns were there from day one. The Michigan product even sent out a letter to the world telling haters how he was about to prove all them wrong. And oh has he done so.

There have been multiple trips to the Injured List. Not going to lie, those were expected. But look at the whole picture and you’ll start seeing things. Rookie season, 57 games. Sophomore season, 71 matches. This campaign, 15 with 14 starts. Numbers don’t lie, and neither does production. What started as 8.2 ppg turned to 12.1 and now stands at 17.9. Same evolution with the rebounds, the assists, the steals…you name it. LeVert may be fighting, but he’s surely winning at it. And he’s just 24 years old.

If you remove Dudley, DeMarre and Ed Davis from the equation, Shabazz Napier comes out as the oldest guy in town and he has only been in the league for four seasons. Talk about a crazy young team with upside and potential ahead of it. Musa is already contributing and was born in mid-99. If you’re one of the youngest fans around, you probably had not even seen the light of the day by then, could even not remember the old New Jersey days.

What all of this paints is just a little part of a pretty huge blank untapped canvas awaiting to be filled full of colors. The Nets surely had the chance of trading that for a finished Picasso in an Anthony Davis trade this past deadline. Are you telling me New Orleans wouldn’t have considered an offer including the likes of D’Angelo Russell, Jarrett Allen, Allen Crabbe, a handful of picks and maybe the very own Caris LeVert? I’m not buying it. That would have stomped the Lakers’ offer and it is not even close. But what is the point in killing the vibes going around BKN nowadays with such a move? Why destroy what have taken years to build? Why go—yikes!—the Knicks way?

The Lakers swung and missed, maybe winning on the long run. The 76ers seem to have hit a long fly ball, but Golden State will be there waiting at the fence to snatch before it turns into a homer, keeping Philadelphia at bay. The Nets didn’t even think about putting a pinch-runner out in the diamond. They remained calm, and Brooklyn will have no problem waiting the game out until it reaches the ninth inning and beyond if need. At the end this is a developmental thing and the Nets have embraced patience and home-grown-talent nurturing as the way to go.

That doesn’t vanish risks, though. There will be bumps and bruises (Caris knows). There will be upsets (Markannen ratifies). But eventually Brooklyn will be back in the run, making the playoffs a real experience once again, bringing the chip closer to the borough and to a parade along Flatbush Avenue.

No need to jump-start, no need to rush. The pieces are in place. It is only time to grind