In advance of the 2019-2020 season, the Peachtree Hoops staff will take a glance at each member of the roster in “player preview” fashion. This edition dives in to the work of Vince Carter.
Vince Carter is a legend.
That term is overused, both in sarcastic and more literal form, but it’s true of the 42-year-old former superstar. It will be a surprise if Carter isn’t quickly inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame when eligible and, even before his 22nd (!) NBA season, Carter has scored more than 25,000 points and played more than 45,000 regular season minutes.
At this point, it is well known that Carter isn’t quite the same force on the floor but, considering his status as the league’s oldest player, he is remarkably athletic and effective. In fact, Carter was a legitimately useful player for the 2018-19 Atlanta Hawks, even with the caveat that the best-laid plans probably didn’t dictate a season in which he would play 1,330 minutes across 76 appearances.
Carter should receive accolades for the way his game has changed and he is the rare case of a superstar perfectly morphing into a quality role player. He is, of course, best known for being perhaps the best dunker of all-time but, while Carter can still surprise with his explosiveness on occasion, his best present-day trait is his three-point shooting.
The veteran is a legitimately elite marksman at this stage, with repeated buzz around the Hawks organization that Carter was actually the best shooter in the building during his first season in Atlanta. On the floor, he connected on 38.9 percent of his three-point attempts (on 4.2 shots per game) and Carter attempted 67.5 percent of his total shots from beyond the arc. On a per-36 minute basis, he got up 8.6 three-point attempts and, while Carter does have value inside the arc, he is a borderline specialist at this stage.
The end result of that high-end shooting was the second-best true shooting percentage (56.5 percent) of his two-decade career and Carter provides a positive impact. He is also an effective ball-mover and, in contrast to the vast majority of his 2018-19 teammates, Carter is a low-turnover player, taking care of the ball and helping to grease the wheels of efficient offense.
Defensively, there was some level of trepidation in advance of last season and, at times, Carter’s lack of bulk and physicality could be exposed. However, the Hawks were 5.7 points per 100 possessions better on the defensive end with Carter on the floor and, simply put, he knows where to be. Is Carter a game-changing defender? Absolutely not, but he ramped things up when Atlanta needed it most and, in an overall sense, he is competent and effective.
In terms of the 2019-20 season, it is probably safe to project Carter for fewer minutes than he played during the 2018-19 campaign. After all, he likely played more than expected last season as a result of injuries to John Collins and Omari Spellman (among others) and, this time around, the Hawks invested considerable resources in Jabari Parker. Beyond that, Atlanta has other options — from De’Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish to Evan Turner and Chandler Parsons — that could command time at the power forward spot. Carter proved last season that he is also capable of flashing back to the small forward position in a pinch but, considering the team’s depth, that isn’t a likely area of deployment barring substantial injury concerns.
As such, Carter’s upcoming season could be a bit quieter than the previous but, at the same time, this is going to be his last ride in the NBA.
Though it was widely reported and confirmed on Aug. 5 that Carter would be returning to the Hawks for another season, the team has not announced the signing, at least as of the time of this post. There is no cause for concern, as Carter will be signing a minimum contract and logistics are likely the only hold-up, but it is worth noting that his final season technically hasn’t begun in full force just yet.
Carter will be 43 in January and, in short, it is a marvel that he can continue to play at a quality NBA level. It will be interesting to see how he is used on the floor but, at the very least, Carter provides rare perspective in the locker room and he is beloved by both his teammates and the coaching staff.
It is entirely possible that Carter will transition into a smaller on-court role this season but, in the same breath, it feels right to project a few instances where the “old man” will make a tangible impact. If nothing else, Carter will be recognized in most, if not all, NBA cities over the next six months, and he has earned that level of attention based on a special trajectory and career.