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  • Joe Makar

All Eyes on Caris LeVert

Updated: Sep 5, 2020

Caris LeVert might be a bit of an unknown for the casual NBA fan. Many have heard the name, but few know what the rising star is capable of. For now.

LeVert, the 20th pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, defines what it means to be a student of the game, and his growth throughout his four years in the league quickly caught the attention of his teammates and coaching staff.

In August of 2017, long before they were teammates, LeVert and Superstar Kevin Durant were working out in the offseason with Hall of Fame point guard Steve Nash. Durant, who at the time was coming off his first NBA championship with the Golden State Warriors, saw something special in LeVert.

“Just be ready,” Durant told LeVert. “Be ready for that moment. We don’t get a lot of TV games or anything like that, but when we do, make sure you’re ready for it.”

Four years ago, the Nets were still living in the shadow of the infamous 2013 blockbuster trade with the Boston Celtics. Deprived of their own draft capital, Nets General Manager Sean Marks was forced to seek creative ways to rebuild and acquire young talent. This was primarily done through trading for late first-round picks and by seeking out talent in the G-League.

On draft night in 2016, Marks sent Thaddeus Young to the Indiana Pacers for the 20th pick (LeVert) and a future second-round pick. At the time, the trade was viewed as a leap of faith. LeVert was a lottery talent that fell in the draft due to a foot fracture he had suffered during his time at Michigan.

For Marks and LeVert, the pairing almost seemed like destiny. In a way, they’ve been exactly what the other needed. For Marks, LeVert is the homegrown talent his club needed. For LeVert, Brooklyn was the organization that was willing to take a chance on him despite an unpromising injury history.

Fast forward to 2020, and LeVert is the No. 1 option for a Nets team deprived of its A-List talent. LeVert was one of just three players to average at least 25 points, five rebounds, and 5 assists during the seeding games in Orlando. His inspiring play has not gone unnoticed, as he was named to the All-Bubble Second team for being one of the 10 most outstanding players during the resumption of play.

After his jaw-dropping 37-point performance against the Portland Trail Blazers, Future Hall of Famer Dwyane Wade took to Twitter to show his support of the up and coming 25-year-old. It was a simple tweet but an extremely encouraging one.

When asked about his team’s performance in the NBA bubble, LeVert said, “We hear all the noise people are saying. We were supposed to go 0-8 or whatever it was. We come to work each and every game and take pride in what we do.”

The shorthanded Nets finished the seeding games an impressive 5-3. LeVert was a huge part of that success.

LeVert is an All-Star caliber talent without a doubt, anchored by his immense work ethic and willingness to learn. He was the perfect embodiment of the Nets during the second half of the 2010's, as well as the bubble.

All the losing early on in his NBA career, all the devastating injuries, all the offseason training with NBA All-Stars, and all the adversity has molded LeVert into the leader the Nets needed to galvanize their depleted squad entering the restart. His leadership and personal growth outshine his impressive stat lines.

It’s assumed the Nets will target a third star to pair with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving whenever the next NBA season begins. LeVert hasn’t let the implied slight get in his way.

In Game 1 of this year’s playoffs, LeVert finished with 15 points and 15 assists - his first career double-double in the postseason, and only the second time a Nets player ever recorded 15 assists in a playoff game. Joining Jason Kidd in Nets history is never a bad look. All series long he was a consummate pro. Caris has come a long way.

NBA coaches and general managers love to see improvement from young players and for LeVert, the growth and development of his game is second to none. He wasn’t in the discussion for the Most Improved Player award, but knowing LeVert’s personality, he is likely not worried about it, if the thought even crossed his mind at all.

What Brooklyn does next is unknown, but certainly all eyes are on LeVert. Whether in a Nets uniform or beyond, the product you’re watching on the court now is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of what the rising star will accomplish.

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