TBG Player Previews 2016-2017: Caris LeVert

Caris LeVert
(AP Photo/Tony Ding)
(AP Photo/Tony Ding)
(AP Photo/Tony Ding)

Who is Caris LeVert?

The Brooklyn Nets’ 2016 first round pick is also their foremost man of mystery; thanks to a litany of injuries, LeVert is a riddle wrapped in an enigma swaddled in a walking boot. In June, the Nets swapped power forward Thaddeus Young for the pick that they’d reach at LeVert on, who, at the time, was projected as a mid-second rounder.

Somewhat relevantly, he’s also one of the Nets’ most obvious rays of hope.

Of course, the big question remains: when he will play? That seems fairly important to the 2016-2017 Nets; knowing how much — let alone whether or not entirely — your most promising young player will be able to contribute this year. It’s more important, obviously, that LeVert gets 100% healthy. After hanging out and being operated on by Dr Martin O’Malley — who worked on both Brook Lopez and Kevin Durant’s fractures of the 5th metatarsal, the same injury LeVert had — the rookie will, eventually, have a clear path for rehabilitation.

2015-2016 Recap:

LeVert was a highly revered prospect from the University of Michigan, selected with the 20th overall pick this summer. In his last two years of college, LeVert was Michigan’s scoring swiss-army knife. He displayed an impressive mix of playmaking, even throwing in a tick under five assists per game his senior year, while shooting 44.6% from three and 50.6% from the entire floor.

And man, he can shoot; LeVert hit a trailer-for-John-Wick-2-badass 40.1% from three across his entire collegiate career.

Did you hear that the Nets needed shooters?

What does he bring to the table for the Nets?

LeVert’s physical attributes are equally compelling and he even describes himself as a “6’7 point-slash-shooting guard.” And y’know what else? He’s also toting a 6’10 wingspan, so, with his lengthy measurables, you’d figure that combination will allow him to see over smaller guards in a similar way to, say, former Net Shaun Livingston, or everyone’s favorite dodgily-bearded android, Klay Thompson. 

Defensively, well… let’s just say the collegiate highlights aren’t particularly flattering, so he will have to learn how to use his size and length to make up for his relatively slight frame, which will help him ease into the rigours of guarding terrifying monsters like this guy.*

(*Question: Pacific Rim 2 is just about PJ Tucker battling kaijus, right? No? Missed opportunity.)

Overall, LeVert fills a clear need for the Nets: dudes with talent. That’s right, in a surprise twist, the Nets need young dudes with talent– would you believe it? He also ups their quota of rookie dudes with sweet names who are scoring playmakers that can shoot…. by a factor of, oh, 100%.

The tricky part is comparing him to other wings in the NBA — what’s his best case scenario? Is it Nic Batum or Evan Turner with 3-point range? Gordon Hayward or Gerald Green without the dunks? Jae Crowder or Jeremy Lamb with the ability to pass the ball? Khris Middleton or another mysterious prospect like Otto Porter Jr.? Allen Crabbe or Anthony Morrow with handles? The Notorious KCP or (ew) Terrence Ross?

LeVert’s heady playmaking and shooting already place him in a strange category that makes comparisons so tough; could his ceiling be a three-point-shooting, playmaking DeMar DeRozan? (So, um, not at all like DeMar Derozan then, I guess? See? Comparisons are hard.)

Obviously, the ultra-best case scenario — and wait for it, take a big deep breath — is as some sort of Paul George-lite, a sweet-shooting wing whose playmaking abilities develop over his first few years in the NBA. The tricky part is, again, his health and age as he’s already 22 years-old. So, while he doesn’t have too many miles on his frame due to those foot injuries, it’s difficult to project just how LeVert’s game will translate into the league.

The LeVert Highlight Reel Theater:

PleasebethenextPaulGeorgepleasebethenextPaulGeorgepleasebethe…

Bottom Line:

There’s a clear vision of his future within the Nets’ personnel and system should LeVert fulfil even modest expectations. Nets fans can dream of a future where LeVert and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson — another big, 6’7 wing — man the two wing positions with a Swiss Army-like ability to guard positions 1-4 that’s sacred in today’s NBA. 

If LeVert’s defense evolves into the realm of ‘passable’ AND his playmaking and scoring ability are as advertised AND if he stays healthy, then the first draft pick of the Sean Marks-era Nets could end up as a big win. That’s a whole mess of ‘ifs’ though, and Nets fans would likely be happy just to see him get on the court and stay healthy… and maybe show some flashes of that Wolverine-smoothness and shooting prowess. 

The Brooklyn Game Player Previews: Jorge GutiérrezEgidijus Mockevicius, Yogi Ferrell, Chase BudingerBeau Beech

Jeremy Lin, Isaiah Whitehead

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