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What’s Left In Vince’s Tank?

Posted by Neil Paine on July 27, 2009

As we all know, the Champs added Ron Artest this offseason, which (in the short term, at least) only makes them more of a threat to repeat next June. In addition, arguably the Lakers' three biggest challengers to the crown also made key moves for veteran stars this offseason in an attempt to keep pace with not only L.A., but one another as well. In Part 1 of a 3-part series, we'll look at the career path of Orlando's Vince Carter, and try to determine what the 33-year-old can offer to the defending Eastern Conference champions.

On draft night, the Magic traded traded Rafer Alston, Tony Battie and Courtney Lee to the Nets for Vince Carter & Ryan Anderson. Years ago, a Carter trade would have sent shock waves across the league, but this deal was met with as much talk about New Jersey's financial situation as Carter's merits as a player, highlighting how much things have changed for Half-Man/Half-Amazing. There was a time in the not-so-distant past that VC was one of the league's biggest superstars -- after winning the 2000 Slam Dunk Contest in spectacular form and leading the Raptors into the playoffs, the inevitable Michael Jordan comps even started flowing for the fellow UNC alum. But from the moment Carter missed a would-be game-winner in Game 7 of the 2001 Eastern Conference Finals Semis (on the heels of his much-criticized decision to attend his UNC graduation the morning of the game), Carter's career has been largely directionless. Injuries and openly apathetic play characterized his finals days in Toronto, and aside from a few jaw-dropping plays every night (as if to remind us the talent was still in there), Carter's time in Jersey was marked more by constant trade rumors than any notable on-court activity.

So that's where VC stands this summer, at a career crossroads. The man who was supposedly going to climb even higher than Kobe Bryant at the start of the decade has seen his career essentially stall out while Bryant's has taken off into the stratosphere. Is there redemption left for VC in central Florida?

Here are VC's career advanced stats:

Year Ag Tm Ht Pos G Min trORtg %Poss trDRtg Stat+/- OWS DWS WS
1999 22 TOR 79 G 50 1760 113.4 24.7 110.2 1.30 3.6 1.4 5.0
2000 23 TOR 79 G 82 3126 116.7 28.5 109.6 4.99 9.1 2.7 11.8
2001 24 TOR 79 G 75 2979 119.5 29.1 109.5 7.35 10.3 2.6 12.9
2002 25 TOR 79 G 60 2385 110.6 29.2 108.5 4.60 4.5 2.3 6.8
2003 26 TOR 79 G 43 1471 114.1 26.9 112.6 3.01 3.4 0.7 4.1
2004 27 TOR 79 G 73 2785 104.5 31.9 106.8 2.94 2.5 3.2 5.7
2005 28 TOR 79 G 20 608 104.6 26.0 111.5 1.66 0.5 0.4 0.9
2005 28 NJN 79 G 57 2220 112.5 31.4 105.1 7.30 5.3 3.1 8.3
2006 29 NJN 79 G 79 2906 108.6 31.4 104.3 5.71 4.8 4.4 9.2
2007 30 NJN 79 G 82 3126 113.0 29.8 108.7 5.67 7.4 3.1 10.4
2008 31 NJN 79 G 76 2959 112.0 25.2 110.6 3.57 5.5 2.2 7.7
2009 32 NJN 79 G 80 2946 111.9 26.5 111.8 3.79 5.6 1.8 7.4
2010 33 ORL 79 G Proj 3.08

(Translated stats are explained here.)

There's no question that Carter can still play a mean game of ball when healthy and/or motivated. Despite concerns about chronic injuries to his knees and ankles, Carter has missed just 16 games combined over the past five seasons and sat out only twice last year. Offensively, he's settled into a level of usage below what we were accustomed to seeing from him in his prime, but he's still a star capable of maintaining a well above-average efficiency level even at 26-27% usage rates. He relies more on the 3-pointer than ever, so it's nice that he made 38.5% of his shots from deep last season, his best mark since joining the Nets in 2005. Carter's gradual shift away from attacking the basket with frequency is troubling for a player known as a creative, super-athletic finisher, but he still has the ability to close the deal inside when necessary, and his offensive talents are diverse enough to handle the transition from explosive youngster to a more earth-bound 33-year-old.

So Vince's offense isn't going to cause Orlando any problems; he was actually much more effective at that end than Hedo Turkoglu, the man whose production he'll theoretically be replacing, a season ago. The main question, though, is how Orlando's top-ranked defense will be able to integrate Carter, a guy whose effort on D has never been great and was downright terrible last season. You can chalk some of VC's defensive struggles a year ago to the lack of defensive ability shown by New Jersey's entire roster, but Carter has a long history of playing bad and/or indifferent defense. Turkoglu was a surprisingly decent defender last year and Courtney Lee, whose minutes at SG Carter will be filling, was rapidly improving on D by the time the playoffs rolled around (he typically defended the other team's top perimeter scorer every night, and even did a semi-credible job on Kobe at times during the Finals), so it's likely the Carter/Mickael Pietrus pairing on the wings will knock Orlando down a notch or two defensively.

That said, Carter still appears to have plenty left in the proverbial tank. He's no longer the beast he was during his Toronto peak, but he'll be a definite offensive upgrade for the Magic and projects to contribute more to Orlando's net efficiency differential than either Turkoglu or Lee would have. Though Carter sort of dropped off the radar in New Jersey for a few years, he's far from finished as a player.

18 Responses to “What’s Left In Vince’s Tank?”

  1. Jason J Says:

    It'll be interesting to see just how bad of a defensive drop off a motivated Carter w/ lesser offensive responsibilities will be. You've got to figure Pietrus plays more in the absence of Lee. Not too many teams have a killer SG & SF combination (Boston comes to mind as an exception. Denver too.), so with Pietrus taking more minutes they can hide Carter some by putting him on the less explosive wing as much as possible.

  2. Neil Paine Says:

    I think everyone's been waiting for a big defensive breakout from Pietrus for years, but he just hasn't been the high-caliber stopper that you'd expect from his physical tools. That said, he's much better than VC and will definitely defend the more threatening opponent (though Carter has been better in the past than he was last year, and like you said, he could play harder this year simply by virtue of actually being on a good team again).

  3. Johnny Twisto Says:

    I'd say there's nothing left in his tank. The guy is worthless. I don't see how he can help any good team, numbers notwithstanding.

  4. Eddy Says:

    Nice write-up, Neil.

    I actually touched on Vince Carter in a post today at 3QC, too. To say he has nothing left in the tank and he's worthless is an inaccurate remark, especially when his numbers offensively were better than Hedo Turkoglu across the board.

    Defense may be an issue, but overall, the Orlando Magic should be fine with VC.

  5. Ben Gleicher Says:

    Vince was never a great one on one defender but he has gotten better with age. His poor defensive numbers have more to do with the team's lack of talent than his lack of defensive ability. The Nets were horrible defensively at every position, with the wings being the best off.

  6. KneeJerkNBA Says:

    Van Gundy's biggest pet peeves: bad D and poor shot selection. Hmmm...

  7. domprime Says:

    Vince will get a new life. He doesn't shoulder all the responcibility. The Magic will give him an opportunity to go to the hole again. In jersey he was double teamed. If he gets double teamed in Orlando dwight and lewis are open. This make for a very differant world. for them all. Who do you double? Vince was not motivated in jersey. who could stay motivated when your carrying the load and you don't have a Dwight power house body.
    You wouldn't be motivated either. The Magic as a team will increase there team average by 5 points per game. If Dwight could be a better foul shooter we would be up by 10 per game. And steel every board on offence and defense. Thanks to brenden bass. this teams is stacked, and quick.

  8. david Says:

    i believe that carter will fit in alright with the magic, i feel that on this squad he does not need to score 20-25 points he is surrounded with great talent i feel that if he averages 17 points and 6 assist a game it will do, plus he's playing for a championship and for his hometown team that alone has to motivate him.
    i will add that having great players around him he will not have to force shots up he will get more open looks and more opportunities to find open teammates. Plus whats this that he's out of gas, why dont we say the same about kevin garnett,ray allen,shaq or paul pierce there all older than him except for pierce who is a year younger than him,and all there numbers have gone down!!!

  9. djangone Says:

    Rashard Lewis was quietly a better passer than Turkoglu, especially into the post. His assist average was lower simply because Lewis can't initiate an offense off the dribble--that was Turkoglu's role. So now Orlando has Vince, whose passing ability hasn't gotten the attention it deserves, and who CAN initiate an offense. I haven't seen this mentioned at all, but to my mind Vince's passing ability and court vision are two other ways he's a major upgrade over Turkey Glue (whom I love as a player nonetheless).

    I wonder if SVG will demand that Vince give max effort on defense, and whether, in so doing, Vince risks injury from the increased activity at what is, for a wing, an advanced age.

  10. Johnny Twisto Says:

    I was being somewhat hyperbolic, but when I have seen Carter play lately I've not been impressed at all. He looks like an old man.

  11. vince-carter15 Says:

    You guys know nothing about Vince Carter.. I know you people are all magic fans but you you will be shocked at the end of next season as VC brings a Ring to Florida.. VC was motivated since he was a Net.. Bringing up highlights almost every game! and carry the Nets almost to the playoffs... VC is better than HEDO in every aspect... Defense, scorer, passer... I have been following VC from his Raptor days so I think you guys are all wrong.. just wait and you will see what happens

  12. JMillott Says:

    Vince Carter in my opinion has a very simular game and amount left in the tank as Drexler did at the same age. I think this is an extremely underrated move because people simply wrote him off a few years ago.

    Obviously this isn't the 25/6/5 VC of years gone past but the Magic didn't bring him in to be that guy. They are looking for the very capable 18/5/5 that he should very efficiently get them making it even harder for teams to defend the Magic as a team.

    He is a better scorer, shooter, ball handler, passer and for his position also a noticeably better rebounder then Hedu whom I commend the Magic for not over paying.

    Is he a step down defensively from Lee at SG? Yes, no question but bringing in Bass and playing a traditional lineup will make them better defensively regardless.

    Why aren't more people talking about the fact that moving Shard Lewis away from PF will make life much easier on Dwight defensively? Even without an ideal PF in Bass it still helps and he still stretches a defense just not as far.

  13. Lig Lury Says:

    That shot in 2001 was in the Eastern Conference Semi Finals, not the Eastern Conference Finals.
    VC never played in a Conference Finals.

  14. Neil Paine Says:

    Good catch, it's been corrected.

  15. your favourite sun Says:

    "In addition, arguably the Lakers’ three biggest challengers to the crown also made key moves for veteran stars this offseason in an attempt to keep pace with not only L.A., but one another as well."

    By my count their four biggest challengers did this. Orlando with Carter, Cleveland with Shaq, Boston with Rasheed Wallace and San Antonio with Richard Jefferson. I'm not sure which one to expect you to omit...Boston because 'Sheed isn't considered a star anymore, or San Antonio because you don't consider them a big enough challenger.

  16. Neil Paine Says:

    That's a good point... I was just thinking of the 3 biggest challengers they would face in the Finals (Orlando, Cleveland, Boston), but sure, I'll throw San Antonio in there as a Western team and look at what RJ has left in his tank as well.

  17. vag. rich Says:

    vince carter will be great for orlando, no doubt. he'll average abut 20-28 ppg (lead the magic) and will be an allstar, for sure.

    hopefully howard, lewis or nelson get injured

  18. Neil Paine Says:

    You hope they get injured... so that Vince Carter will score more points... and be an All-Star? That's pretty messed up. Even Vince Carter himself wouldn't say that.