“Today, the basketball gods smiled on the Nets,” said Brooklyn Nets Principal Owner Mikhail Prokhorov in 2013 when the Nets traded for two future hall of fame players. With the acquisition of forwards Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to team up with guards Deron Williams and Joe Johnson, who had obtained the four-seed in 2013.
The Nets looked primed to make a run at the Miami Heat and possibly to the NBA Finals building off their recent success. In doing so the Nets dumped salary with five players (Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries, MarShon Brooks, Kris Joseph, Keith Bogans) to the Boston Celtics, but those players were not apart of Celtics General Manager’s Danny Ainge plan. It was all about the picks they would receive, which included first round draft picks (2014, 2016 and 2018), as well as the right to swap first round picks in 2017.
Come full circle to 2017, it’s laughable when you see the results that the Nets “super team” put up. They never could beat the Heat, losing in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals in five games. It was clear their once-stars were shells of their former decorative careers. Johnson was the teams leading scorer at 15.8 points per game.
With the team being underwhelming, the Nets had nothing coming. They couldn’t get rid of the older players contracts due to expensive buy-outs and now since they made the trade with Boston, they had no picks to begin a rebuild.
For the last few seasons the Nets have had a roster full of second-round picks, fringe veterans at the end of their career, and they ended up paying big money to players like Jeremy Lin (3-year/$36 million). It doesn’t seem fitting when you want a team to succeed in the beautiful new arena that is the Barclay’s Center. Rapper Jay-Z even sold his share of the team and in an area like Brooklyn that loves its basketball, its been embarrassing for a team that has a combined 30 wins of the last two seasons.
This year though, something seems different. The team is still awful and doesn’t give you much reason to watch, except for one guy. In comes; Caris LeVert, the 20th pick this past June’s Draft by the Indiana Pacers, then traded to the Nets for forward Thaddeus Young.
LeVert was projected to potentially go in top 10 of the 2015 draft, even considered by some to be the best two-guard in the draft before deciding to withdraw his name and attend Michigan for one more season. He then broke his foot and missed the second half of the season, and people forgot about LeVert. Mock Drafts throughout the season had him as a possible mid-to-late second round pick, not quite the lottery pick he was once pegged to be.
Brooklyn on the other hand found themselves a player that they can go forward with, and with no first round pick the next two years (Brooklyn will probably lose this year’s as Boston will almost certainty take the pick as Brooklyn has the leagues worst record at 9-38), it should be encouraging they have a player showing as much upside as LeVert.
— Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) January 21, 2017
LeVert was brought along slowly this year with his foot injury still lingering and isn’t playing in back-to-back sets, but when he is playing, he’s showing us why he was a big deal two years ago. Over the last two weeks LeVert is averaging 12.6 points, 2.8 rebounds and 3.8 assists all while doing it in only 23.8 minutes per game.
While those numbers in themselves are impressive, it’s the efficiency that he’s showcasing. LeVert is shooting 64.7 percent from the floor, 46.7 percent from three and 80 percent from the free throw line. To add to his efficient shooting he is also only turning the ball over once a game.
In the last 8 games, just 4 rookies are averaging more points than Caris LeVert — and he’s the only one shooting above 50% from the field.
— Matthew Hochberg (@MatthewHochberg) January 21, 2017
Nets Coach Kenny Atkinson lately said he wants to have the ball in LeVert’s hands more and it’s easy to see why. They have him playing the small forward position mostly, but he’s running the offense a majority of the time he’s on the floor. He is crossing up NBA wings with ease and showcasing an ability to breakdown defenders quickly.
Caris LeVert just shattered Wayne Ellington’s ankles pic.twitter.com/P8hJv0JK9J
— The Crossover (@TheCrossover) January 26, 2017
His passing has really been at a high level, but a lot of his teammates seem to not be ready for the creativity of his passes, or they simply can’t handle them. Hopefully Brooklyn can find some more young talent to surround him with by the time they can start getting first-round picks to help him. As for now, Caris LeVert is giving the Brookyln Nets hope, something they have desperately needed.