The Brooklyn Nets are in desperate need of a boost, and they will be getting it on Saturday with the return of a key rotation player.
No, it’s not Kyrie Irving, whose shoulder injury that was initially thought to be a minor issue has turned into a major ordeal that has kept him out for nearly two months.
But it is Caris LeVert, who has been sidelined for a similar amount of time due to thumb surgery.
LeVert isn’t Irving, but he was expected to be a key cog on the Nets going into the season, particularly after an impressive showing in last year’s playoffs.
For a Brooklyn squad that has lost four games in a row to drop below .500 and whose offense was ranked 28th in the NBA in December, LeVert’s return is a fairly big deal.
In the nine games Caris LeVert played before going down earlier this season, he was averaging 16.8 points, five rebounds and four assists over 31.6 minutes per game while shooting 42.1 percent from the floor, 36.1 percent from three-point range and 64.5 percent from the free-throw line.
Yes, his efficiency leaves much to be desired, as has been the case for his entire NBA career, but there is no doubt that LeVert can score the basketball, and when he gets hot, he is a dangerous offensive weapon.
Right now, the Nets’ offense is basically Spencer Dinwiddie or bust, and it is taking its toll.
It can’t be all Dinwiddie all the time, and Brooklyn has been finding that out the hard way during its recent stretch. The Nets actually took off once Irving got hurt in mid-November, but reality has caught up to Kenny Atkinson’s club.
In an Atlantic Division that includes the Boston Celtics, Toronto Raptors and Philadelphia 76ers, it’s tough to get by when Dinwiddie is your only legitimate scorer. Caris LeVert should help with that.
To be clear, LeVert still has a whole lot to work on. He has never been a consistent perimeter shooter at any point of his four-year NBA tenure (career 33.1 percent three-point shooter), he is not a good a free-throw shooter (70.3 percent for his career) and he has been very injury-prone. LeVert played in 57, 71 and 40 games, respectively, over his first three NBA seasons, and he suffered a severe foot injury during his junior campaign at Michigan.
But for a Nets team that needs any assistance it can get right now, LeVert will do. Particularly until Irving gets back on the floor (whenever that may be).
The good news is that Brooklyn doesn’t appear to be in any danger of missing the playoffs. At 16-17, the Nets are seventh in the Eastern Conference, and they are a ridiculous six games ahead of the ninth-seeded Charlotte Hornets in the loss column.
Goodness, the bottom half of the East is horrendous.
But at some point, Brooklyn is going to need to start turning things around if it even wants to represent some sort of challenge in the first round of the playoffs, Kyrie or no Kyrie.