Caris LaVert is a starter by talent, but if he keeps coming of the Nets’ bench he feels like a shoo-in for Sixth Man of the Year.
New head coach Steve Nash acknowledged the idea he would not necessarily start earlier this month.
Steve Nash on Caris LeVert: "Caris is a starter. Will he start for us? I’m not sure. He’s so good with the ball in his hands there’s a case to be made that he plays that (Manu) Ginobili role."
— Michael Scotto (@MikeAScotto) December 13, 2020
In Tuesday night’s season opener against the Golden State Warriors, LeVert indeed did not start. Spencer Dinwiddie, Joe Harris and DeAndre Jordan filled out the starting five around Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant.
The Nets handled the Warriors fairly easily, winning 125-99, which led to Irving and Durant getting some rest. LeVert wound up scoring 20 points (6-for-17 from the floor, 3-for-5 from 3-point range) with 9 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 steals over 25 minutes of action.
You better watch out. 20/9/5 off the bench for 'Vert.
— Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) December 23, 2020
Caris LeVert = Manu Ginobili, 2.0?
LeVert seems ready to embrace the role as the sixth man for the Nets, and Nash made a deeper reference to the role Manu Ginobili filled during the San Antonio Spurs’ run.
“Manu played in All-Star games, started on the bench, ran the second unit and closed games,” Nash said previously. “We’ll see. We’ll see how it goes. It’s a great luxury to have.”
With Irving and Durant unavailable, LeVert was the star of last season’s bubble for the Nets. He averaged 25.0 points, 6.7 assists, 5.0 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game in six seeding games. Then, in an opening round playoff sweep at the hands of the Toronto Raptors, he averaged 20.3 points, 9.5 assists, 6.0 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game.
LeVert will probably get a lot of run as the lead dog of the Nets’ second unit, or whenever Irving and/or Durant are off the floor. That will obviously make touches and shots way easier to come by. If Tuesday night’s opener is any indication, he’s going to quickly become a virtual lock to win Sixth Man of the Year.