Vince Carter: From Superstar to Solid Role Player
Earlier this month, Vince Carter joined the Memphis Grizzlies on a three-year deal worth in the region of $12.3 million. That’s a lot of money to pay for a 37-year-old, but the Grizzlies have done their homework and are bringing in a much-needed shooter to help their lack of a three-point threat. Vince has gone through a transformation in his 16 NBA seasons that has allowed him to be a sought-after player in the latter parts of his career.
What Vince Carter Brings
Vince Carter was once a superstar in this league. He was the focal point of his team and was doing things even average NBA players couldn’t imagine doing (Anyone remember these dunks?). Sometimes, it’s hard for fans to appreciate a veteran player once he isn’t meeting the extremely high expectations put on him. With Carter, the regression has been somewhat significant. Take a look at his numbers from last year compared to his 2000-2001 season.
You can obviously see the regression, but the truth is that Carter still brings a fairly efficient skill set for a 37-year-old. He shoots over 39.4% from three and takes 45.7% of his shots from beyond the arc. That’s good enough to give him a decent effective field goal percentage of 49.7%. He also brings veteran leadership and can provide a game winning shot when needed. On a team that features two of its best three players in the front court, a shooting guard who can create his own shot late in the game is welcomed.
Change in Plans
If you look at his contributions over the years, Carter has changed his game dramatically, allowing himself to continue contributing efficiently. Below is a chart showing what percentage of Vince’s points have come from three-point range compared with the percentage of points that have come from mid-range jumpers.
As you can see, Vince has continuously increased his volume of three-point shots during his 16 years in the league, going from about 5% to 45%. At the same time, he’s minimized the mid-range game to where it only constitutes less than 15% of his points. He's continued getting about 15-25% his points from the free-throw line as he still attacks the basket when the opportunity presents itself. This change has allowed Vince to keep his true shooting percentage virtually identical (around 55%) in his 16 years in the league.
Vince Carter has played at least 60 games in 14 of his 16 NBA seasons for a total of 1,148 games. That’s a lot of playing time, but Carter seems to be holding up just fine. These past two years in Dallas, he played the most games of any two back-to-back seasons of his career (81 games each season).
Despite that, this contract is questionably long. Vince is scheduled to make $4.2 million ($2.0 million guaranteed) in 2016-2017, when he’ll be 40 years of age. The number of 40-year-olds who can make a meaningful contribution to an NBA team is very small, and the Grizzlies are making a big gamble here giving Carter guaranteed money for three more years. Rumors had it that Carter would return to Dallas if they offered him a two-year, $8 million contract and it sounds like Carter had other suitors as well, so it makes sense why the Grizzlies had to offer that third year of partially guaranteed money. With that being said, it’s still hard to justify offering a 37-year-old guaranteed money for three years later.
Memphis was the worst three-point shooting team in the NBA during the playoffs last year, shooting 29.0% from deep. To make matters worse, their best three-point shooter, Mike Miller, took his talents to Cleveland in the off-season.
Carter doesn’t shoot the three as well as Miller, but he's likely an improvement as an overall player. Memphis is really in need of a playmaker who can create his own shot, as they were the third-highest team in percentage of assisted three-pointers. Carter helps with that immediately, as 24% of threes were unassisted last year compared to Mike Miller’s 2.8%. Being able to create his own shot on the perimeter, Carter can be used late in games when the team needs a three. I don’t know if you’ve heard, but he’s clutch too. Vince shot 50% during clutch time last season (last five minutes with game within five points).
Vince Carter is no longer a superstar, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be effective in the right system. He has clearly lost a step, but his superior athleticism allows him to still be able to perform at a competitive level. Despite that, it’s a little questionable to give someone a three-year contract at the age of 37. Carter will likely be a good bargain for a year or two, but the last year of his contract could be $2 million in dead weight. Memphis will be able to remain competitive in the short term but deals like this one might make it hard for them to be this good down the road.