Hot Take Marathon: Caris LeVert Will Be An All-Star
The Brooklyn Nets made some of the most sensational moves in the league this offseason after their surprising surge to the playoffs this past year. But just as important for Brooklyn’s long-term success as their new players, however, is a hidden star already on the team.
If I told you that Brooklyn had a wing under 25 years old who scored 18.4 points per game on a highly efficient 55.7% true shooting percentage with 63.9% of his shots unassisted in the first two months of the season, and that the same player capped off his breakout campaign with 105 points in the Nets’ five-game playoff series on 61.2% TS%, what would you say? You’d probably say, “Yeah, D’Angelo Russell had a real breakout season. That’s why he got his first All-Star bid.” What if I told you that the player described above was not D’Angelo Russell?
Caris LeVert’s final two seasons at the University of Michigan were interrupted by injury and led to him being undervalued entering the NBA. Although his breakthrough last year was also disrupted by injury, LeVert’s future is stellar. His full-season statistics understate his true value, as they include approximately a month’s worth of Levert reintegrating himself into the Nets’ rotation and finding his rhythm from 3-point range. Analyzing LeVert’s shooting performance pre-injury and in the postseason provides a better depiction of his true skill, but we can go deeper.
What made Caris LeVert so effective? He managed to average 6.8 pace-adjusted assists per 48 minutes while taking exceptionally good care of the ball. When adjusting for a player’s touches, dribbles, time of possession, passes, and plays made, LeVert’s turnover rate was lower than any rotation player on the Nets aside from backup guard Shabazz Napier, at 2.6 per full game. Combined with LeVert’s scoring volume and efficiency, a picture emerges of a highly effective scorer and playmaker.
Examining LeVert’s peripheral statistics brings his offensive value into even sharper focus. Caris LeVert led the Nets in three metrics which I use to capture how a player contributes to his team’s offense: Passing Ability (the percentage of passes which set up scoring opportunities), Playmaking Ability (the percentage of touches which set up scoring opportunities), and Playmaking Efficiency (Playmaking Ability minus turnovers). An outstanding 26.3% of his passes led to scoring opportunities, and 17.1% of his touches generated opportunities for his teammates.
LeVert’s surprising performance last season was not limited to the offensive end. Through opponent field goal misses, steals, blocks, charges drawn, loose ball recoveries, and uncategorized opponent turnovers, Caris LeVert saved the Nets 20.4 points per 48 minutes, a high figure for a perimeter player. When we include defensive rebounds, LeVert’s production increases to 22.7 points saved for 48 minutes. He was particularly effective in isolation (5.8% above league average) and on handoffs (52.6% better than average), and was just above average in defending spot up jumpers (+1.7%) and off-ball screens (+1.1%). LeVert still has room to improve in defending the pick-n-roll, as he fell 16.2% below league average at defending the ball-handler on pick-n-rolls.
As Caris LeVert enters his age-25 season, he looks poised for a dynamic campaign. If he is able to continue his progression from last season and remain healthy, he should be a crucial factor in the Brooklyn Nets’ success this season. Should LeVert prove able to live up to his playoff performance, it will be no surprise that he vaults himself into the All-Star conversation.