Sunday, June 29, 2014

Is Vince Carter Hall of Fame Worthy?

Carter's had his ups and downs, but few have reached the heights he has (ABC)
The first of hopefully many articles contributed by Robert Simms, a new writer for SB Nation's Celtics Blog:
When people think of Vincent Lamar Carter, they tend to think of one thing: dunking. This is justifiably so. Carter is widely regarded as one of the best in-game dunkers of all time. His performance in the 2000 NBA All-Star Dunk Contest is the stuff of legend and his monstrous slam over 7’2" French center Frederic Weis in the 2000 Summer Olympics is remembered as "le dunk de la mort", the dunk of death, by the French media. 
But Carter does not deserved to be remembered solely as a dunker. That is a legacy better reserved for high-flying specialists like the Suns' Gerald Green. Vince Carter deserves to be remembered in a way befitting someone as accomplished as he is. Vince Carter deserves to be remembered as a Hall of Fame player.
Carter’s NBA career began in 1998 with a draft day trade that sent him from the Golden State Warriors to the Toronto Raptors in exchange for college teammate and close friend Antawn Jamison. The Raptors were a fledgling franchise and, like most expansion teams, they struggled in their first few years. Carter, along with cousin Tracy McGrady, instantly changed this. Carter followed up his 1999 Rookie of the Year campaign by making the All-Star team in 2000 and leading the Raptors to their first-ever playoff berth. 
Carter and McGrady were the stars of that team, but veteran big man Charles Oakley was the backbone. Though Oakley's level of play slipped as he aged, his presence provided vital emotional leadership for a young Raptors team. Both Carter and McGrady have stated that Oakley’s mature veteran guidance had a huge impact on their developments in the league. 
After suffering a 3-0 sweep at the hands of the Knicks in the first round of the 2000 playoffs, the Raptors conducted a sign-and-trade deal that sent McGrady to Orlando, separating the pair of talented wing scorers. And yet, the ensuing 2001 season turned out to be a success for the Raptors, as they won the Atlantic Division with a franchise-record 47 wins. After beating the Knicks in the first round of the 2001 playoffs –revenging their loss from the prior season—the Raptors faced off against the eventual Finals runners-up Philadelphia 76ers.
Carter starred in the series--a seven game gem--taking center stage against Sixers point guard Allen Iverson. Carter performed impressively in his first trip to the Conference Semis, averaging over 30 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists per contest, including a 50 point effort in Game 3. Unfortunately, Iverson dropped two 50 point games of his own in the series and the Sixers ultimately escaped Game 7 with a victory after Carter missed a go-ahead jumper with two seconds remaining. Despite the loss, the season was not a disappointment for the Raptors organization, who saw a bright future ahead.
Carter is now booed whenever he returns to the Air Canada Center, largely because of his behavior and performance in the seasons following that Game 7 loss to the Sixers. When Charles Oakley left in the 2001 offseason, Carter lost his mentor and the Raptors lost a veteran presence capable of keeping their young star grounded. Frustrated by a perceived (and perhaps real) lack of ambition in Toronto's front office, Carter’s production suffered over the coming years. Carter’s camp will point out that much of the dip in production can be attributed to injuries, and to an extent they are correct. But many of Carter’s ailments were fictitious and even the legitimate ones were often drawn out. Carter’s milking of small injuries is reminiscent of the way Manny Ramirez used to remove himself from lineups for phantom infirmities during his days with the Boston Red Sox. 
Carter’s lack of effort is not justifiable, but his frustration is certainly explainable. After a few consecutive terrible seasons, team president Richard Peddie cleaned house and hired Sam Mitchell as the Raptors’ new head coach and Rob Babcock as the new GM. Babcock quickly expressed his interest in rebuilding the team, slowly. He publicly stated that the team was "not worried about how many wins we get right away, or whether we make the playoffs within the first year or two." 
For someone accustomed to winning like Carter, this was bad news. He had already endured multiple seasons in the basement of the Eastern Conference and was not interested in remaining there much longer. Carter’s negative attitude put a stink on the whole team, resulting in frequent fourth quarter benchings. With his discontentment abundantly clear to team management, Carter was traded to the New Jersey Nets.
Carter had an instant impact for his new team and returned to his All-Star level of play as he entered the prime of his career. In his five seasons with New Jersey, Carter averaged just under 24, 6, and 5 per game. These Nets teams starred the memorable trio of Carter, Jason Kidd, and Richard Jefferson and made the playoffs in each of Carter's first three seasons there. After getting knocked out of the 2007 playoffs by the eventual runners-up Cavaliers, the Nets traded Jason Kidd midway through the 2008 season, finishing under .500 that year and the next. Carter was also dealt--to the Orlando Magic--in a move that effectively ended his days as a superstar player. Carter had a few forgettable seasons in Orlando and then Phoenix before finally settling in Dallas, missing their 2011 title over LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh by one year. It is Dallas where he has reinvented himself as a role player, making use of his still excellent three-point range to contribute off the bench. 
While no longer a star, Carter remains a key contributor for the Dallas Mavs (FoxSports)
In many ways, Carter has had a prototypical Hall of Fame level career. Following impressive high school and college years, he immediately proved his worth in the pros. From there he quickly grew to become a franchise player, earning several All-Star nods and making a pair of All-NBA squads. Towards the tail end of his career he morphed from a star into a quality role player where he has served as a valuable veteran scorer and contributed some big playoff moments (such as his game-winning three against San Antonio in the first round this year). Carter has had a definitive career arc filled with enough substance to earn a spot in the Hall of Fame.
Some of you might be asking me to pump the breaks here, but if you look at the full body of Carter’s career, you might be surprised by how impressive it is. For instance, did you know that Carter is 25th on the NBA’s all-time scoring list? He has scored more points than several legendary Hall of Fame scorers like Larry Bird, Clyde Drexler, Bernard King and Elgin Baylor. Assuming he plays two more seasons, it is conceivable that Carter could finish his career as high as 23rd on the list, just ahead of Charles Barkley. Realistically, he’ll end up 24th because it’s a safe bet that LeBron James will pass him during the coming season. Looking at it another way, Carter was the 27th player in league history to reach 23,000 points. Every other player that has accomplished that feat is either already in the Hall or is a lock to get in once eligible. 
23,000 points?! That’s a lot of dunks! Well, yes and no. While it’s true that Carter is known primarily for his action above the rim, he is also one of the league’s most prolific long distance shooters, ranking seventh all-time in three pointers made. By now it should be pretty clear that Vince Carter was a scoring machine who scored, well, a lot. And I mean A LOT.
Carter’s first ten years in the league compare favorably with the first decades of other Hall of Famers. Here are the stat lines for four players through their first ten seasons in the league:
Player A: 751 games played, 23.1 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 3.9 apg, 1.6 stocks, .463/.399/.845 shooting splits
Player B: 758 games played, 20.9 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 5.8 apg, 2.8 stocks, .485/.285/.787 shooting splits
Player C: 697 games played, 23.8 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 4.2 apg, 2.1 stocks, .447/.375/.794 shooting splits
Player D: 707 games played, 23.9 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 4.5 apg, 2.1 stocks*, .451/.336/.834 shooting splits
*stocks = steals per game + blocks per game
The numbers look pretty similar, don’t they? Player A is Mitch Richmond, the high scoring shooting guard who was just inducted into the Hall of Fame. Player B is Clyde Drexler, another Hall of Fame wing scorer and notable member of the 1992 Olympic Dream Team. Player C is Vince Carter. Notice how similar his numbers are to the others listed here, Player D in particular. Much like Carter, Player D was also renowned as an explosive offensive force gifted with incredible dunking ability. Likewise, Player D also contributed to the souring of a locker room environment and essentially forced a trade to another team towards the end of his first decade in the league.ᶟ Player D also milked injuries during times when his team had a down year. 
Player D, believe it or not, is Kobe Bryant. Though Kobe’s career has certainly been more successful than Carter’s overall, their careers after one decade in the league are nearly identical statistically. In the second half of their careers, Kobe has vastly outperformed Carter, but so what? A poor man’s Kobe Bryant is still a Hall-worthy player. And that’s exactly what Vince is. A little less hard-working, a little less competitive, and a little less talented (arguably a little less moody as well). 
I’m going to remember Vinsanity’s dunking for the rest of my life. One transcendent skill does not a Hall of Famer make, (see: Gerald Green) but when that skill is complemented by a worthy career, the player’s chances of entry to the Hall should be high. If Ray Allen were merely a three point shooter, would he be in the discussion? Probably not. If Dirk only had his midrange game, would he be? Unlikely. The same applies to Vince. Were he only a dunker, he would not be worth discussing. But Vince was not only a dunker. Vince was a star. A star that just happened to shine brightest above the rim.
All stats courtesy of BasketballReference

1 comment:

  1. Shaq/Lebron among others have also milked injuries. Lebron's never really been injured, but when anything little comes up, he and others sure make a lot of excuses. Remember his lefty FT because of a supposed injured right arm, even though he's shooting halfcourt shots pregame with that same right arm.

    Don't forget to include ABA stats. Carter is actually only 30rd in scoring all time.

    I think Carter is easily a HOFer, especially when compared to many other HOFers. Lack of motivation, sure, but very few players don't have this, but a great career nonetheless.

    Nice player stat comparisons. This is a prime example of why you can't use these types of stats alone to conclude anything. Lots of problems including Kobe there, though. Carter was 22 in his first year, Kobe was 18. Kobe didn't start his first 2 years, Carter did. Carter had his moments, but certainly couldn't dominate like Kobe did, and didn't have an all-around skillset plus much worse defense. James Harden's past 2 seasons are great to counteract the stat gurus. He's been more efficient than Kobe ever has been, and he puts up great #'s. He is very good, but nowhere near top echelon. Perfect year this year with lots of key injuries for him to squeak in for 1st team selection.

    Never understood why wanting to be traded because your team sucks and isn't trying to put out a good team is a bad thing. Kobe didn't want to leave, but management told him they'd be forth the effort for a good team, and they weren't doing for 3.5 years, in the middle of his prime. Enough is enough sometimes. Kobe's main problem was Shaq being lazy. After 2002 finals, Shaq took his sweet time to get surgery, waiting until season started, and that affected the rest of his stay there. It's 2 alpha dogs. Remember that Jordan, and probably worse, treated his teammates awful as well, but pippen was not an alpha. And Jordan was there first. While Shaq/Kobe joined Lakers the same year, Kobe was a rookie and Shaq was a top 3 player in league. Roles would've been reversed if Shaq was rookie and Kobe was veteran. Shaq has burned bridges at every team he's been on. Not sure about Kobe's milking of injuries. He played his best ball on the worst teams he was on, and plays through anything. Dantoni ran him to death, probably primary reason he tore his achilles. Toughest player in nba history.