The 2019-20 NBA season isn’t “over” but, with the coronavirus pandemic placing the season in a suspended mode, there is a distinct chance that the Atlanta Hawks won’t be playing again this season. With that as the backdrop, the Peachtree Hoops crew will look back at the players still on the roster and how they performed in the team’s first 67 games.
The first installment centers on Vince Carter in his final professional campaign.
Most of the “player reviews” in this space will deeply evaluate on-court performance with a focus on the present and a look to the future. For Vince Carter, that doesn’t seem like the best approach.
Carter will be calling it a career whenever the 2019-20 season ends and, in what might have been his final game, he knocked down a three-pointer in overtime while being met with eruptive applause.
With the NBA season suspended until further notice, Vince Carter checks in and drills a three in the final seconds. pic.twitter.com/XLW1t7uIjW— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) March 12, 2020
Following that performance on what was a bizarre night in the basketball world, Carter became emotional in looking back on his career and acknowledging that may have been the end.
Vince Carter gets emotional reflecting on his legendary NBA career. pic.twitter.com/i9vHP1f1VW— FOX Sports: Hawks (@HawksOnFSSE) March 12, 2020
More than anything, the 2019-20 season was a farewell tour for Carter, as he rightfully received applause, tribute videos and standing ovations in virtually every arena around the league. After all, this is an eight-time NBA All-Star that will retire with more than 25,000 points and almost certainly gain entry into Springfield.
On the court, Carter wasn’t all that impactful for the Hawks, even if that is far down the list in terms of important things to recognize. He appeared in 60 games for an average of 14.6 minutes, and Carter produced 5.0 rebounds and 2.1 rebounds per contest. After a lights-out shooting season (38.9 percent from three) in his first tour of duty with Atlanta, Carter saw his marksmanship decline to just 30 percent from beyond the arc in 2019-20 and, because his long-distance shooting represents most of his shooting output, he shot only 35 percent from the floor.
The Hawks were close to being the same team — Atlanta had a net rating of -8.1 with Carter on the floor and -7.2 with him off the floor — with or without Carter on the floor, so it isn’t as if his struggles made a major impact on the overall product. In fact, the Hawks were forced to deploy Carter for more minutes than he “should” have garnered, thanks to all kinds of roster issues, headlined by John Collins’ suspension and Jabari Parker’s injury woes before he was dealt to Sacramento. That was perhaps best personified by the reality that Carter was asked to play center on multiple occasions, most notably when he defended an All-NBA center in Joel Embiid.
The 2019-20 season shouldn’t be remembered for what Carter didn’t do on the floor, though, as he was brought back by the Hawks as a mentor figure that could instill his wisdom on a young team. There were memorable moments along the way, including an October explosion in Madison Square Garden in front of a national audience.
Depending on the resolution of the 2019-20 campaign, it is possible that Carter suits up for the Hawks again and prolongs a two-decade career. If that doesn’t happen, though, he leaves with a legacy of the impressive transformation from star to role player, one that (very) few have ever successfully navigated. He wasn’t his superstar self during a two-year stint with the Hawks, but Carter did what he was asked to do and, in short, it was memorable to watch the final seconds of what could accurately be described as a legendary run.