Digging for Diamonds: Caris LeVert and Montrezl Harrell
In the last edition of Digging for Diamonds I wrote up Willy Hernangomez and Richaun Holmes, a couple of intriguing “per minute darlings “that have yet to find consistent playing time. This time around, I’ll look at two prospects who have recently benefitted from more playing time – Caris LeVert and Montrezl Harrell.
Based entirely on his age, college stats and size, LeVert’s preseason CARMELO projections defined him as an “OK prospect” with his top ten NBA player comparisons including score-first combo guards Reggie Jackson and Brandon Roy (that’s good!)… and a whole bunch of fringe rotation players (that’s bad). Given his combination of size, shooting and playmaking ability the dream is indeed Brandon Roy, who represents a plausible, if highly unlikely best case scenario. Unlike most combo guard prospects, LeVert showed legitimate playmaking skills as a collegiate athlete. In fact, his 28% assist rate in college ranks around the 90th percentile. His 22% assist rate as a pro (albeit in a small sample) suggests he can at least fake point guard duties, particularly in a league that is more flexible about what a primary ball-handler is asked to do (e.g. Giannis and Harden). (For reference, Brandon Roy had an assist rate just below 20% for his career.)
The reason LeVert didn’t rank any more highly than he did (148th) in my December top 200 update (besides the lack of playing time) was a below average block and steal rate for a guard in college. However, so far LeVert’s steal rate with the Nets is just good enough that it wouldn’t stop me from acquiring him. He’s been efficient as a scorer (nearly 60 percent TS%, but expect that to drop) and capable from downtown. It’s reasonable to expect even more accuracy from deep as LeVert struggled to finish in college, but was deadly from three point range.
If you want more of a reason to be excited about LeVert, consider that he may have been drafted closer to the lottery were it not for stress fracture foot surgery in college. It’s a concern for us as dynasty owners, but not as much of a concern as it might be for a big such as Brook Lopez or Joel Embiid.
Verdict: Buy LeVert as approximately a top 100 dynasty asset, which in my opinion is quite aggressive, even for an exciting prospect. The Nets are low on talent, especially talent with the skills of LeVert. The opportunity is there for him to get starter’s minutes and the upside is there for him to develop into a legitimate starter, making him an ideal pre-breakout buy in dynasty. Just don’t go crazy, because LeVert did struggle inside the three point line in college and does not have steal / block upside to raise his fantasy floor. He could cool off and reveal himself to be a field goal percentage drain.
Meanwhile, Montrezl Harrel was not looked on so favorably by CARMELO, and for good reason. Harrell had a 0.7 WARP projection as a draft prospect and while he showed some promise in his rookie year last season, he sure looked a lot like an undersized center without the ability to space the floor. With the injury to Clint Capela, Harrel has had an opportunity to play and he has not disappointed fantasy owners, as he has delivered top 50 value over the last month or so. The question we now have to ask ourselves as dynasty owners is whether we think he can sustain the playing time and performance into the future. For me the answers are probably not and probably yes. Unlike baseball, for example, it’s harder to fake a month or so of success, which says to me Harrel is a legitimate weapon as a high efficiency finisher. There are outliers, but stats tend to normalize fairly quickly. However, when Clint Capela is fully healthy, Harrel will likely be reduced to a bench role without much long-term upside to fall back on.
While Harrel has matched (and in some ways surpassed) Capela’s ability to finish at the rim, Harrel lacks Capela’s defense chops. Both ESPN RPM and NBA.com’s Defensive Impact agree that Capela is comfortably the better defender. At just 22 years old, it’s reasonable to expect some development from him, but given that his game is largely predicated on dunks and layups with the benefit of James Harden creating favorable angles for him to attack the basket, I wouldn’t expect nearly as much as I do from LeVert.
Verdict: Sell high on Harrel or hold him as a top 150 dynasty asset. Harrel has the range of Kenneth Faried without the steals and blocks ability to fall back on. I don’t think he’s suited for the modern NBA, except to be a high-energy player filling in for 20 minutes or so off the bench.