So, instead of trying to engage in 15 different conversations, I want to lay out my full thoughts on the Caris Levert trade.
Caris Levert, as I see him, is a high-volume, mediocre efficiency, oft-injured, no defense playing player that's getting over $18M a year. We should break down each of these categories individually.
High Volume Chucker: After his rookie season, he never saw USG under 20%. While in Brooklyn with Kyrie and Spencer Dinwiddie, he still had 29.5% USG. Dinwiddie was a much better creator (better AST%, better TOV%) and a much better shooter (better TS%, 3PAr and FTr). Next year, with Durant and Kyrie (both of whom are absolutely superior players) he still had a higher USG. And yet, with all of that USG (and some pretty damned good players), he still had a TS% that was below league average. Yes. The dude can create. Technically so can Rondo, Cedi, Stevens and Wade. They're not efficient when they do it, so we don't ask them to. Well...this guy really isn't efficient either...and you cannot use the excuse of the talent around him. Even in Indiana, he wasn't their best (or 2nd best) player. That would be Sabonis and Brogdon. And yet, there he was...absorbing a ton of air time and being far less efficient than either of them. Brogdon (in particular) had a better AST%, TOV% and TS%.
Oft Injured: This dude just misses games. 3 surgeries (on the same foot) in college. He was still missing time his rookie year as he recovered. He's missed time due to a dislocated foot. He's missed time due to groin/knee injuries. Had that terrible thumb surgery. Had a tumor removed. 14 games missed this year already (5 for COVID). You literally cannot find a season where he hasn't missed 10+ games since he joined the NBA. Not one. The year before he had the cancer issue, he missed 25 games. That was more than 1/3 of the season. It isn't like it's just the occasional knee or a little tweak here and there. It's just a ton of time missed. Don't get me wrong. I feel bad for him. I don't want him to be injured. I don't wish him any ill will. I hope that he's fully recovered (and I would hope that even if we hadn't traded for him). However, I cannot ignore that he has yet to play a season where he didn't miss 10+ games.
Defense: He's not Harden bad. However, as his USG has climbed...his defense has waned. If he was an efficient scorer, that might not be an issue. But, he's consistently below league average from a scoring standpoint...
What I'm seeing is a less efficient, older, taller and more expensive version of...Colin Sexton last year. That's not hyperbole either. Check out the numbers. They have similiar APG. Collin is a much better shooter. Levert with a much better AST:TO ratio. Their defense negates their offense. WS/48 pretty damned close. Sexton is better at drawing fouls. Levert slightly better at avoiding them. That said, Sexton was assisted on far greater percentage of of his shots last year. Now, if you're upset about Sexton "highjacking the offense", why would you like a guy who does that to an even greater degree?
And I think that's the thing that bothers me most about this. There are some serious Sexton haters who talk about his most ideal role being a 6th man and not being worth $15M/year. Yet, here we have a guy who (by damn near all descriptions) is ideally suited to play as our 6th man...but he's getting paid even more, he's older and his TS has never been league average. Sexton's 2nd best TS% (his 2nd year in the league) is better than any season LeVert has put together. Sexton's rookie year he had a 52% TS. LeVert has 2 full seasons with worse TS (and he played with Kyrie+Dinwiddie and Kyrie+Durant during those 2 seasons). Not only are we paying him more than the $15M that some don't want Sexton to get...we gave up a late 1st and 2-2nds for the right to do so.
All so that we could have creation. In a season in which we have FAR exceeded expectations. If I told you (at the beginning of the season) that, near the ASB, we would be without Markkanen, Rubio, Garland and Sexton...and would have a 5-game stretch in which we went 4-1 without all 4...you'd have laughed me off of the board. If I told you that we would beat a mostly healthy Bucks (in Milwaukee) while we were missing Rubio, Sexton and Markkanen, you'd have ridiculed me worse than "Raptors in 5". But this happened. This is actually happening. We were never supposed to be this good this fast. But we are. And now, it appears as if people are (for whatever reason) afraid that the magic is suddenly going to end if we don't marginally improve. Did we all forget just how young our actual core is?
What are we chasing?
Do we not have one of the easiest remaining schedules? (YUP)
Especially compared to the guys who are at/near the top of the East? (Mostly YUP)
Does this move actually make us championship contenders? (Probably Not)
Were we a championship contender before this move? (Probably Not)
If all of our guys were healthy and we didn't make this trade, would we be legit contenders? (Probably Not...though possible)
Does this move prevent us from running the same crew back? (YUP)
With some expected growth from our young guys, would we have been contenders next year? (PROBABLY)
Were we not expected to be a Top 4 seed in the East prior to this move? (I think so)
Rubio, Rondo Allen, Love, Ed Davis and Cedi all have playoff experience. So it isn't as if they couldn't help some of the other youngsters keep their cool in a 7-game series. Are we likely to lose in the first round? No. Because our defense is that damned good. Even if we can't shut down a team's primary weapon...we can absolutely contain most of the rest of any team in the East's players. Brooklyn is probably the worst draw for anyone as Durant/Harden/Kyrie (for the 3 or 4 games he's allowed to play) are all capable of elite offensive magnificence. So, we are likely to play in at least 2 series. Giving our young squad plenty of experience.
Does this trade win us another series? Maybe... Levert is obviously capable of offensive explosions like he did the other night to Chicago. But, while those CAN happen...they are also games like 16 points on 19 FGA, 12 points on 21 FGA, 6 points on 8 shots, 5 points on 7 shots. He has more games where he scored less than 10 points than he does 30+ this season. So, yes. He could absolutely help us win a series if he gets hot at the right time. But, he's just as capable of being ice cold for big stretches that could cost us a series. This is why I'm not nearly as excited about that 42 point explosion as others are. (Garland, as a counter, has 2 games of less than 10 but 3 games of 30+).
If you want some further thoughts (from someone far smarter with basketball than I), baconbacon has his blog post up. It covers a ton of things that I haven't (and won't).