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Caris LeVert dazzling coaches, teammates

The undisputed star of training camp for the Brooklyn Nets was third-year wing Caris LeVert, who has improved markedly even as his name circulates in rumors.

The trade rumors have swirled around Caris LeVert on a regular basis, but the versatile wing for the Brooklyn Nets has just worked on his game and showed a great willingness to take on tasks as asked to perform them.

A prime example of that trait happened last season. With point guards Jeremy Lin and D’Angelo Russell on the shelf, LeVert was tasked with manning the 1 spot in relief of Spencer Dinwiddie and did so well enough that he’s considered a solid insurance policy entering this season.

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Russell is healthy, Dinwiddie is back and the Nets added Shabazz Napier in free agency, but LeVert averaged 4,2 assists in 26.3 minutes per game last season and did a decent job caring for the rock as well, considering his inexperience in the role.

LeVert played in 71 games last season, starting 10, and his numbers were solid, averaging 12.1 points, 3.7 rebounds and 1.2 steals, as well, on .435/.347/.711.

It’s worth pointing out that it was the first season LeVert was fully healthy since 2013-14, when he was a sophomore at the University of Michigan and helped the Wolverines to the Elite Eight before they fell to Kentucky.

As a junior, LeVert missed half the season with a fractured left foot, an injury that also wiped out much of his senior season and one that required three surgical procedures in less than two years.

LeVert was one of the first players acquired by general manager Sean Marks after he took over the job in February 2016. He acquired the rights to the 20th overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft from the Indiana Pacers in July 2016 in exchange for power forward Thaddeus Young.

That makes LeVert, at least indirectly, the last player standing from the ill-fated 2013 trade with the Boston Celtics that cost them three first-round picks (either outright or via position swaps) and brought in Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce for a failed run at title contention.

Garnett was traded to Minnesota in 2015 for Young, who was used to acquire LeVert.

The Nets conducted their training camp last week in Brooklyn and LeVert was the undisputed standout of the sessions.

Coach Kenny Atkinson certainly didn’t hold back, per NBA.com.

“He’s been fantastic, quite honestly. I’m going to call it like it is.”

Teammates have also raved about LeVert. Already a solid isolation scorer, LeVert has kicked things to a new level this fall, with one teammate telling The Athletic’s Michael Scotto that LeVert is scoring pretty much whenever he wants to.

For his part, LeVert told Brian Lewis of the New York Post that shutting out the trade rumors is simply a matter of controlling what he can control.

“I focus on myself and getting better every day. I can’t control [trades], so I don’t really focus on them. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t. I’m very blessed to be in this situation. I love this team. I want to play here for a long time, but I know it’s a business.”

Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer told Bill Simmons on the BS Podcast last week that LeVert was off the table as far as the Nets were concerned and would not be part of any potential deal with the Minnesota Timberwolves for unhappy All-Star Jimmy Butler.

Before his foot injuries, LeVert was thought to be a player who could go low in the lottery in the 2016 draft before he slid to No. 20.

He missed the first 20 games of his rookie season in 2016-17 while recovering from the third surgery on the foot and played much of the year with a minutes restriction before starting 25 of the Nets final 26 games.

LeVert averaged 8.2 points and 3.3 rebounds in 21.7 minutes per game as a rookie, shooting .450/.321/.720.

With increased playing time last season, LeVert’s overall shooting slid backwards a bit, even as his 3-point touch improved a bit.

But in 21 appearances after the All-Star break, LeVert’s shooting improved markedly. He had a .451/.373/.760 slash over that span after puttin gup a .428/.335/.693 line prior to the festivities.

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LeVert figures to be a primary rotational piece behind Allen Crabbe at the 2 and DeMarre Carroll at the 3, but if his camp reviews are any indication, it might become increasingly difficult for Atkinson to keep LeVert off the floor.

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