FanPost

Checking In On an Old Friend, Volume IV: Vince Carter

After doing this to never Knick Frederic Weis, Vince Carter was riding high. He was already extremely popular among the fans, and was named 2000's "Next." That honor is given to certain athletes ESPN the Magazine thinks we should watch out for in the year ahead. Writing for the Magazine, Tim Keown had this to say:

On the court, two dribbles and a dunk is nothing more than an appetizer. Carter is the rare player whose presence fills unoccupied spots on the floor, in much the same way as his body seems to turn elastic in midair. He is simultaneously graceful and emphatic, and his exponentially improved perimeter game has made hope and prayer the most plausible defensive strategy. He is also Next because he absorbs the incessant comparisons to Michael Jordan while seeing them for what they are: flattering, burdensome and utterly unattainable. He has a combination of ability, humility and civility that once seemed to emanate from a different basketball age but is now-if everyone would just look past the Sprewellian veneer-making a comeback through people such as Carter and Tim Duncan.

Carter, in fact, carries himself on the court like someone who knows—with decimal-point precision—exactly how good he is and yet does not view life as an endless opportunity to shove that knowledge down the world's throat. He is Next because he believes he can win championships and achieve fame-even special, first-name-only fame-while playing in Toronto.

Carter certainly played at a high level in the 2000-2001 season, as he finished second in the Association in PER and eighth in Win Shares per 48. Probably the most amazing thing about his season was his ball control. For a player who had the ball in his hands as much as VC did (seventh in usage rate), he only turned the ball over eight percent of the time, which was the third lowest mark in the league. Carter wasn't all about slam dunks as he shot 42.3 percent in the midrange, 40.8 percent from three point range and was twelfth in free throw makes and attempts.

The good times continued in the playoffs. Carter had a solid first round vs. the Knicks, then stepped it up vs. the Sixers:

Then, Graduation Day. Carter decided to attend his graduation ceremony the morning of Game 7, and when he missed the final (well-contested) shot, the criticism came his way (along with some defenders of his decision).

The next couple of years were quiet as Carter dealt with injuries, unremarkable play when he was on the court, and surgery. The Raptors actually made a run that got them into the playoffs when Carter was out in the 01-02 campaign, but the thought of Toronto being better without their franchise player was heresy.

Moving into 2004, Carter dropped a bomb on Toronto:

"My frustration comes from the fact that we have not been able to create an equation to win ballgames," Carter wrote. "I am at the point in my career where I do not have time to wait two to four years for a team to mature."

And with that, Carter's time in Toronto was running out. Along the way, & I didn't know this at the time, an interesting allegation was made against Carter. Carter reportedly tipped off the Seattle bench about what plays the Raptors were running at the end of a close game. Added future hated ex-Raptor Chris Bosh:

"Telling the other team a play, that's ridiculous. I refuse to believe that, how silly is that?

Another addition to the mess that was the final days of VC in Toronto was this from Jalen Rose:

More on that here

Carter finally got his wish on December 18, 2004 when he got traded to the New Jersey Nets for junk Alonzo Mourning, Eric Williams, Aaron Williams, and two first round picks. Here's what VC had to say:

"You can't worry about what happened in the past, you have to move on. That's what the Nets are trying to do and I'm trying to do the same thing."

What were some of the views of the trade at the time? Paul Jay of CBC Sports:

Over in New Jersey, the trade should make star point guard Jason Kidd happier. It gives him two of the most athletic players in the league (Carter and Richard Jefferson) to be on the receiving end of alley-oop dunks, and makes it marginally more likely New Jersey will make the playoffs, although the loss of Mourning and Aaron Williams leaves the Nets with one of the smallest lineups in the league. And any playoff hopes are based on the never-certain assumption that Carter will be healthy.

But this deal will always be more important to Toronto than New Jersey. Should the Raptors waste their draft picks, as they appear to have done this season with Rafael Araujo, then fans may start yet another doomsday clock on the Raptors career of Chris Bosh, the team's last hope for superstardom.

And we all remember how that ended for Toronto.

Bruce Ratner:

Vince provides an immediate impact and gives our fans an electrifying team to watch every night. Most importantly, we are committed to winning and this is an important step."

Adrian Wojnarowski:

Suddenly, the Nets have a developing young power forward, Nenad Krstic, and an inspired Carter looking like Vinsanity again. Jason Kidd has stopped sulking and returned to old form, and with Thorn and GM Ed Stefanski getting creative this summer, the Nets could be back competing for the Eastern Conference championship sooner than later.

Yeah that didn't happen.

When he was here

Everyone back? Ok, let's check the numbers:

Metric

Vince Carter

Games Played

574

Minutes per Game

37.9

True Shooting percentage

54.92

Turnover rate

10.3

Assist percentage

25.2

Rebound rate

8.78

Usage rate

29.5

PER

21

Win Shares per 48

.148

Wins Produced per 48

.147

Unfortunately for Vince, the Nets weren't able to recreate the success of the early Kidd years. But much like Jason Kidd when he first arrived in New Jersey, VC was able to rehabilitate his image and game on the court. Along with the game-winners and posterizing dunks, Carter went on to finish:

first in usage rate

second in total points

third in points per game

fourth in PER

fourth in minutes per game

fourth in Win Shares per 48 minutes

and fifth in total assists in Nets franchise history.

His best stretch of play came when he first joined the team. A rejuvenated Vinsanity averaged 27.5 points per game while shooting a career best 42.5 percent from three point range. Even during his struggles, he was popular with fans across the league. With his play back to previous levels, Carter appeared in three All-Star Games, starting in two of them. The Nets shared in Vince's return to elite status, as they were able to make the playoffs at 42-40. Nothing happened for the Nets as they were quickly taken care of by the Miami Heat, despite their best efforts. (that sounds familiar).

Carter continued his run of success with Jersey, as he averaged over twenty points per game with the Nets on efficient shooting. The Nets remained competitive,and they won the Atlantic Division in 2005-2006. The competitiveness ended when Jason Kidd got traded to Dallas (self-promotion alert: I wrote about that Kidd's end as a Net here).

Even though the ending sucked and the Nets stopped winning, it wasn't all bad. For one thing, Carter served as a bit of a mentor to Brook Lopez:

"I definitely miss the voice," Lopez said. "He definitely drove me and made me a better player. He’s a future Hall of Famer and he’s giving me advice, so I’m definitely not gonna turn it down."

Why'd he leave?

The Nets weren't going anywhere, and the Magic were coming off a loss to the Lakers in the Finals. And with Hedo Turkoglu leaving via free agency, it made sense that Orlando would be on the hunt for an efficient, high-usage wing player to pair with Dwight Howard. So, in late June, the magic (I know, sue me) happened and VC was on his out of town.

For the Magic, Vince was gonna be the final piece that would bring them a championship. They had just come off a loss to the Lakers, and with an efficient scorer like Carter, paired with Dwight Howard, Orlando was a legitimate contender for the NBA Championship. Here's then Magic General Otis Smith:

Our goal remains the same -- to win a championship. Any time you can add an All-Star to help you reach your goals, you have to do it. Vince has been a bonafide scorer in this league for 11 seasons and we are excited to add both him and Ryan [Anderson] to our team. We thank Rafer, Tony and Courtney for their efforts and wish them success in the future."

Carter & Ryan Anderson were very productive as they helped the Magic win 59 games. Unfortunately for Orlando, they lost to the Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals. In his season wrap up, Orlando Pinstriped Post writer Evan Dunlap provided this assessment of Carter's year:

Overall, I think it's fair to say that Carter showed glimpses of what Orlando thought it was getting back on draft night, but that more often than not, he was simply ordinary. A few probing dribbles here, a fadeaway jumper settled for there, a driving lane left unused... whoop-de-doo. But with that said, there are few available players in this league who would fit better with the Magic than Carter does already, which is why although GM Otis Smith will likely field calls asking about Carter, he won't get anything that represents a fair return. Which draws me to this conclusion: Carter could have been better this year, but based on how he played during the first three months, he also could have been a lot worse. His shooting stats don't show many outliers, so it's unrealistic to expect him to become more efficient next year. The best chance for improvement in his second year in Magic blue is as a playmaker. More familiarity with Howard, and with coach Stan Van Gundy's system in general, should bring out the best of his set-up skills. But if that doesn't work, and if he doesn't assert himself more in the pinch-post? We'll have this discussion again a year from now, I'm afraid.

Looking at it from the Nets' perspective, the Carter trade served two purposes. The first was to free up some money so the Nets could make a run at LeBron and the other free agent superstars in 2010. The second, lesser purpose, was to add some young faces to the New Jersey rebuilding project. For New Jersey, Courtney Lee represented a young piece that they could help them return to basketball relevance. Lee was coming off a solid rookie season, but it ended on a sour note. Going from a title contender to one of the weaker teams is definitely a shock to a young player's system.

"It was definitely a shock," said Lee. "Going all the way to the Finals on a good team, just expecting to regroup for next year and make it back to the playoffs again and just to get the news that you've been traded, it definitely was a shock. But it's one I have to live with."

The Lee experiment didn't work, and he got moved to Houston in a four team trade.

Pivoting back to Vince, he eventually got shipped out to Phoenix along with Marcin Gortat for Jason Richardson and Hedo Turkoglu. On the surface, 13.5 points per game in 27 minutes isn't too bad. But when you dig underneath, the picture becomes much, much uglier. As a Sun, he had a career low PER, Win Shares per 48 minutes, and had his worst stretch of shooting in his career. How bad was it? Let's head to Bright Side of the Sun and let SB Nation Arizona writer Scott Howard fill you in:

It was that general constant coasting and perpetual malaise that made me despise the guy and found the Coalition to Light Vince Carter on Fire (CTLVCOF). Whenever you have to spend time in multiple BSotS threads getting all theoretical about why a player should care about his job when he's already rich and has a great life, then you know that player isn't going along so well.

Even when Vince was playing well (it happened like 5 times and primarily against Oklahoma City) I couldn't stand to watch him play. Our resident VC fan Raptorel discussed on numerous occasions how he appreciated the artistic merits of Carter's abilities - yet to me he represented one of the worst eras of NBA basketball. In the post Jordan era you had a slew of stars whose main ability was to get their man isolated on the wing and basically just hang out there with a series of fakes and jabs until they decided to either pull up for a contested jumper or drive to the basket. I literally cannot stand watching that type of basketball.

All in all there are low odds that Vince Carter ever wears a Suns uniform again - and for that I'm thankful. Someday we'll all look back on this and say something like "oh my god do you remember when Vince Carter played for the Suns" and then we'll look at each other and softly remark "LOLZ...LOLZ."

The 2012-2013 season

How was Vinsanity's season?

Metric

Vince Carter

Small Forwards in 2012-2013

Games Played

81

47

Minutes per game

25.8

20

True Shooting percentage

57.1

53.6

Assist rate

15.07

14.03

Turnover rate

10

10.29

Usage rate

23.1

17.85

Rebound rate

8.9

9.8

PER

17.8

15

Win Shares per 48

.137

.099

There's a lot to like here. The first thing that jumps out at me is the amount of games played. In his two years as a Maverick, he's only missed six games. He'll probably never average 38 minutes a game for a full season, but at 25-30 minutes a night, he'll provide a lot of value.

When we take our eyes off the games played and focus on his on court play, Carter is still looking good. Surprisingly, this was his best season shooting the ball. He had a career high True Shooting percentage of 57.1, and when we peruse the shot charts, we can see why. Almost half of his attempts came from three point range, and he hit on 40.6 percent of them, making this his best stretch of three point shooting since his first days with New Jersey.

Carter's success on offense proved to be very beneficial for Dallas. The Mavericks were seven points better per 100 possessions with VC in the game vs without. I find this to be even more impressive when you consider Carter barely shared the court with Dirk Nowitzki, playing only 688 minutes together over the course of the season. Carter didn't turn the ball over that much, and the Mavs turned it over less when he was on the court. Vince's work in the post and good passing helped Dallas to increased efficiency in the restricted area and from downtown. Their turnover rate was higher than their overall team average (they had the fifth best team turnover rate in the Association), but I would attribute that to the high turnover rates of Darren Collison and O.J. Mayo (More on Mayo here). The Carter-Mayo-Collison trio played 925 minutes together, the second highest combination on the team.

Surprisingly, Carter wasn't bad at defense. He was able to hold opposing small forwards to a PER of 13.8 and effective field goal percentage of 48.5 percent, both right around league average. He only played 175 minutes as a shooting guard, but he was able to hold his own while he was there. In fact, the Mavs were a much better defensive team with Vince on the court. Dallas' defensive rating with VC was 104.9 and they allowed an opponent eFG of 47.5 percent (to put this into context, that opponent field goal percentage is equivalent to Memphis, the second best defense in the regular season) marks that were better than Dallas' defensive performance on the whole. When Vince was on the bench, Dallas' defensive rating was 108.8, about four points worse than when Carter was in the game.

Carter's play has certainly endeared him to the Dallas fanbase. After some initial pessimism amongst Dallas fans regarding his acquisition, here's how Mavs Moneyball writer Tim Cato sees the new Vinsanity:

Since arriving, Carter has changed as a player. There's no ego in his game, no entitlement -- he's reinvented himself. The man known for taking inefficient long 2's has stepped out to hit 162 three pointers this season, tying his 2000-01 career high in made triples -- in 892 fewer minutes. With an undersized, injured Mavericks front court that struggled on the glass, Carter posted the highest defensive rebound percentage of his career. He doesn't have the ball enough to rack up high assist numbers, but he's a solid, reliable passer in the pick-and-roll. And he's playing defense! He's not perfect, but the defensive effort and alertness is definitely there -- as Cuban put it, "he's f****** taking charges!"

Sure, there's times where he relapses to the old Vince, losing focus on defense or dominating the ball just to take a wild, contested shot. But as a whole, Carter has responded to his new situation in Dallas like no one could have expected.

That praise wasn't just found only in Dallas. Writing for Grantland, Zach Lowe, while making a Hall of Fame case for Vinsanity, took note of his play this season:

Carter reinvented himself in Dallas as a solid two-way player willing to work on both ends of the floor and fill whatever role the Mavericks asked of him on offense. He busted it during the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season, but the results were uneven — 41 percent shooting and a 13.6 Player Efficiency Rating, both career lows. Carter's numbers have ticked back up this season, even as the Mavericks have shifted him almost full-time to small forward and asked him to occasionally work as the centerpiece of their offense in Dirk Nowitzki's absence. The Mavs signed Carter in 2011 with no idea whether he'd contribute at all, but tune in to a Dallas game during crunch time this week and you'll likely see Carter running the pick-and-roll or using his beefed-up post game to draw a double-team, scan the floor, and find the open man.

The praise out of Dallas is unanimous, to the point that it doesn't seem possible the Mavs are talking about the same Vince Carter — the malingerer who exaggerates injuries, loafs on defense, and pouted his way out of Toronto, devastating a franchise and costing several higher-ups their jobs.

How does the future look?

Pretty good as a matter of fact. Sure he'll probably never be Top Ten in usage rate over the course of a season again, but Carter has shown an ability to be a productive player even at this late stage of his career. Carter still is a capable midrange shooter and quality three point shooter. He's not dunking over and through people these days, but he's still a good finisher near the basket.

Mark Cuban likes him a lot and wants him to retire in a Dallas jersey. Vince isn't one for the retirement talk, so expect him to play a couple of more seasons. If he decides to stay in Dallas or go elsewhere, Vince should continue to be a productive player. He's only 36, so he has a good chance of playing until 40. Hey, if Jason Kidd can play at a league average level at age 40 and retire with something left in the tank, it's not impossible for Vince to do the same.

Previous Installments

Jason Kidd

Travis Outlaw

Derrick Favors

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