Caris LeVert’s ascension in Brooklyn had been one of the NBA’s feel-good stories prior to his gruesome leg injury on Monday night. For a franchise that has floundered to the bottom of the East since the disastrous Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett pick dump, LeVert represented a new era and the Nets’ first potential All-Star since 2013-14. Brooklyn held the No. 8 seed in the East entering Monday night, and LeVert had been the leading man.
But any hopes of postseason basketball in New York’s most-populous borough are dashed if LeVert is out for significant time. Spencer Dinwiddie, Jarrett Allen and Joe Harris will continue to battle on a nightly basis—a tribute to the culture built by GM Sean Marks and head coach Kenny Atkinson—but without LeVert, the road to the playoffs is too steep. The secondary pieces can’t be expected to keep Brooklyn’s postseason hopes afloat.
LeVert had been enjoying a breakout campaign prior to Monday’s injury. His team-high 19 points per game represented a career best for the Michigan product, as did his 47.7% field goal percentage. LeVert hadn’t become the Nets’ top option by default. He was matching some of the league’s top players on both ends.
The third-year guard ranked No. 11 in the league in isolation points entering Monday night, scoring 1.11 points per possession. He has a higher offensive rating than DeMar DeRozan and Victor Oladipo and a better player efficiency rating than Chris Paul and Paul George. LeVert has been a two-way force in every sense of the word, and the engine behind Brooklyn’s mini-revival.
LeVert is Brooklyn's first young cornerstone since relocating from New Jersey, a budding star acquired through the draft. He represents the Nets’ future, built not from short-sighted trades but sustainable team building. With LeVert in tow, Brooklyn’s path to success had an engine.
Monday night provided another step back for a franchise that has sullied its first seven seasons at the Barclays Center. LeVert is just 24 and will be given ample time to recover from Monday’s injury. But until he returns, Brooklyn will remain outside the realm of NBA relevancy, waiting for their leading man to return.