What Kevin Durant’s Caris LeVert evaluation could mean for Nets
Even Nets GM Sean Marks admits Kevin Durant is a “loud voice” in shaping the franchise’s future. And that voice may be speaking volumes on who’s going to be around next season.
Durant hopped on the “Play for Keeps” podcast, and offered up a wide-ranging interview that included him speaking about his Achilles rehab, Kyrie Irving, and why he came to Brooklyn — as well as who helped bring him here.
“I felt that having young players, I wanted to be around younger players. I wanted to be around Caris LeVert, guys who I got to know over the last couple of years. Spencer Dinwiddie, somebody I enjoyed playing against. So everything aligned when I was thinking about it. Obviously, Kyrie is somebody who I admire his game, I wanted to hoop with. It was just who I wanted to hoop with at this point.”
Presumably that will come next season, when the Nets should be a contender. Fans will dissect every sentence and try to decipher who’ll still be around for that.
Many have pointed to LeVert as the Nets’ prime asset to acquire a third star. But Durant — who has worked out with LeVert for several summers — admits even he was surprised at the young wing’s basketball acumen.
“[LeVert] is definitely better than I thought. He’s different,” Durant said. “He can score that thing. He can pass it, strong, he’s quick. His thing is about being efficient, and I think that’s what you’re seeing. The shots he’s taking now, it’s like all of his lane. It’s not a lot of 3s, a lot in the mid-range, getting to the cup. I think his IQ is what surprised me the most for the game.”
The lack of a third point guard — along with injuries to Irving and LeVert — crippled the Nets midseason. But Chris Chiozza has been a late revelation, handing out a career-high 10 assists in the win over the Bucks. The Nets can make him a restricted free agent with a modest qualifying offer of $1.5 million.
“Chris Chiozza’s one of the guys that came in late, but he surprised me. He’s surprised me a lot,” Durant said. “We started playing three-on-three once I started getting back into shape a little before the pandemic hit. Then he started getting more minutes in the games, knocking down 3s, just playing with pace. He’s just looked good.He looked like he belonged out there.He was a guy who was a two-way player, up-and-down from the G-League. … He really showed me he can play in this league.”
On the opposite end of the spectrum from the young Chiozza is venerable Jamal Crawford, like Irving, a longtime friend of Durant’s.
The oldest Net ever at 40, Crawford perfectly fits the profile of the cap-friendly vet that super teams surround their stars withto fill out the roster.
“Mal is just a hooper, through-and-through,” Durant said. “He’s one of those guys that just loves to play and appreciates being in the NBA. Even if he’s not playing big minutes, I think it’s somebody you need to have on your rosterespecially if he can still practice and still be a player. I understand if he can’t move and he can’t guard anybody and he can’t play: But he can still move.“Even if you’re not going to play him big minutes, he’s not going to complain. He’s just going to do his job, but also he’s going to be good for the younger players. He’s been great for Caris and Joe Harris, he’s been great for them. Just getting reports back from Sean and some of the guys down there. They just love having him around. … You need people like that on your roster, even if they’re the 15th, 14th man.”
“I think Jamal can provide a lot for you in that role, you know what I’m saying? If you can throw somebody like him out there, end of a playoff game or end of a game, he can definitely win you a game, hit some shots. And you minimize his role? Give him a few minutes with the third unit or the second unit? He’ll get buckets. He can swing a game, be an X factor still.”
It’s worth noting that Marks is reporting back to Durant. Chances are his reports back to the GM will carry weight — and bode well for LeVert, Chiozza and Crawford.
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