Brooklyn Nets' Caris LeVert starting to impress in new position
The versatile guard is adjusting to playing point guard and showing glimpses of potential
Within 72 hours, Caris LeVert showed where he needs to improve and just how dangerous he can be in the NBA.
The 23-year-old was the catalyst of the Nets’ much-needed 110-90 win over the Hawks on Monday as he poured in 17 points on 54 percent shooting and added six assists and two steals. It was a complete turnaround from Saturday, where LeVert struggled to run the offense (four turnovers) and finished with a plus-minus rating of -24 in 25 minutes of action.
Some of that is to be expected from a second-year player, but there is another aspect to LeVert’s adjustment. The former Wolverines star is being asked to play point guard, a new role for the 6-foot-6 swingman. Despite some blips in the first 23 games of the season, coach Kenny Atkinson has been impressed with LeVert rising to the challenge of learning a new position.
“With Jeremy [Lin] and D’Angelo [Russell] out, he’s our defacto second unit point guard…I think we’ve seen his game grow since he’s taken that role,” Atkinson said after the win in Atlanta on Monday.
Aside from Saturday’s performance, LeVert’s numbers have actually improved playing at point guard. After shooting just 36 percent in October, he is now averaging 10.5 ppg, 3.6 rpg and 3.1 apg on 45 percent since taking over as the second unit point guard.
Levert acknowledged he is starting to get used to life in the NBA, which has led to improved play.
“I feel like as a young player in the league, you don’t really know what to expect until you go through it,” he told BrooklynNets.com. “The more games you play, the more comfortable you get.”
LeVert was sidelined during the beginning of his rookie season due to recovering from a foot surgery. His injury cost him valuable opportunities to develop as he missed his first summer league and preseason. He admits that he was fortunate to have those opportunities this season and he believes he's benefitted from it.
“God has been blessing me. I’ve put in a good summer of work and it definitely helped,” he said.
Still, playing a point guard in the NBA is challenging task – even for those who have played the position their entire career. LeVert was a four-year star at Michigan, but he was known as a versatile scoring guard/forward who could help on defense. The Nets saw bigger potential when they traded up to get him after the Pacers picked him with the 20th overall pick in the 2016 draft.
“We talked about Caris when we drafted him -- could he be a point guard? That wasn’t the main reason why we drafted him, but in the back of our minds, we thought it was something he could do,” Atkinson said. “So it’s nice that he’s starting to feel comfortable there, because we need it.”
Atkinson added, “It’s funny when guys are out, sometimes you discover things you didn’t know.”