Indiana Pacers: Re-grading the Caris LeVert trade
In 2016, the Indiana Pacers drafted Caris LeVert with the 20th pick in the first round of the NBA Draft. Before he signed with the team, LeVert was traded to the Brooklyn Nets.
One day prior to the Nets selecting him, LeVert wrote a touching letter published on The Player’s Tribune clarifying his injury history and current health status, while also giving general managers some insight into his life and his father’s tragic death.
“It’s been 13 weeks since the surgery, and my foot is good now. I just got my latest round of X-rays and CT scans back the other day, and Dr. O’Malley told me that I’m fully healed. He’s confident that I’ll be able to come back strong, and, really, it wouldn’t be a surprise.”
LeVert signed it with “ready to work.”
A central Ohio native, LeVert’s fit from a cultural standpoint would have mirrored that of Indiana’s midwestern fanbase. The passionate basketball purist element of the Pacers fanbase would have liked LeVert’s game, too.
He came into the league as an extremely talented all-around and athletic player. He had a big frame to fill out and solid instincts and vision to pair with it. His effort was unquestioned.
Virtually the only mark on his record were the three surgeries he underwent.
In return for his draft rights, the Pacers would receive Thaddeus Young.
Since joining the Brooklyn Nets, LeVert has had a solid NBA career. It remains to be seen if he’s going to be a key piece of the team’s puzzle for the foreseeable future given that structurally, things are changing.
The Nets just fired their head coach Kenny Atkinson and Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving are surely the number one and number two options on the team. LeVert might be a third star for the team, but feels a bit redundant to Durant’s skillset (his nickname is even “Baby Durant.”
It seems as if Jarrett Allen or LeVert might need to be traded to secure a third star for the Nets.
LeVert is midway through his fourth season and averaging 17.7 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 4.1 assists in 29.0 minutes per game. He’s shooting 41.4 percent from the field and 38.1 percent beyond the arc (50.9 percent true shooting percentage).
As mentioned, LeVert compares in many ways to his teammate, Durant. It seems unrealistic for him to hit that ceiling in his career given the major injuries he suffered in college as well as in his NBA career thus far.
Early last season, LeVert suffered a dislocated right foot that would keep him out of a significant amount of games.
Still, this past summer the Nets had seen enough to sign LeVert to a contract extension.
He suffered a thumb injury this year keeping him out for nearly two consecutive months.
Over the last three seasons, LeVert has missed over 100 games.
At the time of this trade, the Paul George trade demand that changed the entire timeline of the franchise had not yet happened. In LeVert’s rookie season, George would be with the Pacers and the team would get swept by LeBron James in the first round of the playoffs, losing by six points or fewer in each contest.
For Indiana that season, Young started in all 74 of his appearances and averaged 11.0 points, 6.1 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game. He shot 52.7 percent from the field, 38.1 percent beyond the arc for a true shooting percentage of 56.2 percent.
Young’s best attribute would be his defense. The Pacers, knowing their main barrier to reaching the Finals would be James, had to have someone who could be tasked with guarding James and not hemorrhage points.
Young typically did a good job guarding one of the most unguardable players of all-time. What often did the Cavs in were hunted switches onto bigger defenders.
Young famously even joined a cherry-picked crew of notable players, including The King himself:
In retrospect, having Caris LeVert on this Pacers squad now would be useful, but his defense, especially in his rookie season, would not have even been close to that of Young.
Was the Caris LeVert trade right for Indiana Pacers?
Hindsight is 20/20. If you know the Paul George trade is coming, you don’t pull the trigger on a Young trade because you know you need to retool for the future and LeVert offers more there. LeVert also has been unfortunately faced with plenty of injury issues over the years, something that the Nets have been able to be patient with, but that the Pacers might not be.
All things considered, this deal was too steep for Young. A great prospect and a second-round pick is an overpay. Knowing the circumstantial planning being done for LeBron, though, I’m still willing to overlook the overpay to a degree.
The issue comes with the team’s inability to then move Young once his usefulness had expired. Last season, after Victor Oladipo went down, the team could have moved Young and his expiring contract to a number of still hungry competitors.
While the Pacers would go on to make the playoffs (and get swept) last season and have some usefulness for Young, they saw him walk away for nothing this summer. Assets could have been retained. A second-round pick at least.
Given that they could have at least gotten the second-round pick back at the trade deadline last year, the ultimate overpay was not made up for later on when it could have been.