Caris LeVert has been a bright spot for the Brooklyn Nets despite a disappointing 4-6 start. The fourth-year guard was averaging career highs in points, rebounds, assists and 3-point percentage after signing a new contract this offseason, but production was never a risk in that deal. Instead, his health was the concern. LeVert has dealt with a number of serious injuries during both his NBA and college career, and now, he can add another one to the ledger.
LeVert left Sunday’s game against the Phoenix Suns with a thumb injury, and now the Nets , according to Shams Charania of The Athletic. Charania also reported that the injury would keep LeVert out for several weeks. The loss of LeVert is devastating for a Nets team that has only three shot-creators on the roster. Only LeVert, Kyrie Irving and Spencer Dinwiddie average more than two assists per game for the Nets. LeVert is the team’s third-leading scorer. His absence will put even more pressure on Irving and Dinwiddie as ball-handlers moving forward.
The Nets have already taken a step to help fill in the void for LeVert by signing Iman Shumpert, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. Shumpert had been the best remaining player on the free-agent market for months, but the veteran guard who last played for the Houston Rockets remained unsigned when the season began last month. Finally, that has changed.
The Nets have had a 16th roster spot available since Wilson Chandler was suspended for violating the league’s drug policy. That roster spot lasts until Chandler’s return in mid-December, but up until now, the Nets hadn’t used it. LeVert’s injury changed that. Brooklyn entered the season shorthanded on the wings because of Kevin Durant’s injury, and the loss of Chandler only exacerbated the problem. Even with Shumpert in the fold, the Nets will still have to place greater burdens on players like Garrett Temple and David Nwaba than they likely expected before the season.
Shumpert was by far the best free-agent option on the table, and should help fill a major void in Brooklyn. The Nets are currently ranked sixth in offense, but 26th in defense. That poor defense has their record sitting below .500, and as of right now, the Nets are not slated to be a playoff team in the Eastern Conference. Shumpert is, fortunately, a defensive specialist. He is not the scorer or creator that LeVert is, but should help Brooklyn on that side of the floor. More minutes for Nwaba and Temple, strong defenders as well, should too.
Offensively, Shumpert is limited but he will at least be a willing participant in Brooklyn’s system. He is only a 34 percent 3-point shooter for his career, but over 72 percent of his total shots after joining the Rockets last season came from behind the arc. Brooklyn has a similar scheme that emphasizes long-range gunning around a brilliant isolation scorer, so Shumpert should fit in smoothly.
Still, this is a treading water sort of move. The Nets were already playing from behind in the standings, and now, they just need to remain competitive enough to still be in the hunt for a playoff spot when they return to full strength. They have the talent to do so, but if they can’t correct the defensive problems that have plagued them so far this season, it won’t matter.