We’ll have to wait another year to see the full potential of the firepower-filled Brooklyn Nets. It was revealed this past Monday that their veteran playmaker, Spender Dinwiddie, will be out for the season due to a torn ACL in his right knee.
The Nets just can’t catch a break. This was supposed to be their year! They were about to wreak havoc as 2019 superstar free agent signees Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving are both finally healthy, and it got taken away just after three games.
While it’s frustrating, though, it’s certainly not the end of the world for the team, especially since Dinwiddie is expected to make a full recovery before next season. There’s also a ton of decent talent left on the roster beyond Durant and Irving.
Fifth-year swingman Caris LeVert is now the clear-cut headliner of the Nets’ supporting cast. He’s an offensively-equipped wing that perfectly fits the ‘third scorer’ role, so it should be interesting to see his continuous development, and how well he can respond to keeping up with two top-level All-Stars.
How ready is Caris LeVert?
Last season, with Durant out all year and Irving left to be the Nets’ solo primary scorer, LeVert provided solid back-up scoring alongside Dinwiddie – while Dinwiddie delivered an offensive punch off-the-bench, LeVert made his mark as a starter, mostly as Irving’s backcourt partner.
Injuries hit the Nets hard in 2019-20, and after seemingly taking turns going to the IR list, Irving eventually got sidelined for good in early February. It put the team’s playoff hopes in jeopardy.
Thankfully, though, LeVert was more than ready to help Brooklyn stay in the playoff picture. With their star point guard gone, the former University of Michigan standout went on to average 24.1 points, 4.8 rebounds, 5.3 assists, and 1.7 assists in a 16-game stretch, which only got halted by the COVID-19 outbreak.
Better production was then showcased in the bubble, where LeVert led a severely undermanned Nets squad in the seeding games, one that didn’t also include Dinwiddie and other key rotation players. At the one point, with the Nets’ playoff seat already clinched, he decided to go toe-to-toe with the Portland Trail Blazers’ main men, Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, virtually by himself. He poured in 37 points on 16-for-29 shooting to almost sent the Blazers home, who were still fighting for a playoff slot.
The adjustments playing with ball-dominant players like Durant and Irving, as well as the ability to stay focused following games where he didn’t touch the ball as much as he wanted to, may cause some stumbles along the way. However, LeVert appears to be a capable player and he’s also backed by a supportive, championship-chasing group in Brooklyn.
Here’s how comfortable he looked as a lead scorer and facilitator on Monday – Durant and Irving sat out the game, while Dinwiddie just got listed in the IR: