Even at age 40, Vince Carter is still an effective player. He's a key role player for the Memphis Grizzlies. But what has made Carter's game age so well?
The highest grossing film of 2017, so far, is Logan. The critically acclaimed superhero movie tells the tale of a legendary hero in the twilight of his career, and life. Logan takes place over two decades after the first X-Men film, with Hugh Jackman playing the role he made famous for the ninth and final time. Logan is a tale of survival, and a tribute to the on-screen history of one of the most beloved characters in comics, and the following superhero movie genre.
While Vince Carter, age 40, may not exactly be a grizzled (unintentional pun) mutant like Logan, he is seeing a late career resurgence as well. In his third year with the Memphis Grizzlies, Carter is currently the oldest player in the NBA, with Manu Ginobili, Jason Terry, and Paul Pierce turning 40 later this year. To put that in perspective, Markelle Fultz, the de facto number one pick in this year’s draft, was born a few weeks before Carter was drafted in 1998. (I’m getting older too.) But whether it’s wizardry, longevity, or yoga, VC can still create magic moments. 17 years after his legendary dunk contest performance, Carter can still throw down between-the-legs dunks. Need evidence? Look below. That clip is from 21 March.
The rim wasn’t lowered, I promise. The “Half-Man, Half-Amazing” might be in different ratios now, but I think everyone has run that line into the ground.
Carter is a relic of the post-Jordan NBA, initially making his mark at the turn of the millennium. He made his mark in a time when the shooting guard position was the deepest in the NBA, obviously with many being labeled as “the next Jordan.” His contemporaries included Ray Allen, Tracy McGrady, Kobe Bryant, Paul Pierce, and Jerry Stackhouse, to name a few. His career is legendary simply on his dunking and impact on Canadian basketball alone. Yet even in his 18th NBA season, Carter is still playing a pivotal role for the Memphis Grizzlies, his sixth NBA team.
On the season, Carter’s numbers may not be impressive. He is scoring 7.9 points per game on 39% shooting and 36% from three. But on a Memphis team that lacks scoring punch, VC is the Grizzlies’ second most important player next to Zach Randolph. He has been a steady presence off the bench for Memphis, with solid perimeter shooting and ballhandling. Carter’s days as a team’s go to offensive player may have ended a decade ago. But his transition from All-Star to Role Star has extended his career and led to sustained success. In his time in Dallas and in his third year in Memphis, Here’s a look at Carter’s shot chart this season.
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As a spot up shooter, Carter scores 1.099 points per possession, good for the 76th percentile of all NBA players, per Synergy Sports. His game is simple, looking for perimeter jumpers or drives when he’s looking to score. A majority of Carter’s offensive production comes as a spot-up player, accounting for 31% of his offensive possessions. Carter’s jumper has looked as smooth as ever, with an effortless release that seemingly makes every shot look good. Against the Milwaukee Bucks on 13 March, Carter went a perfect 6-of-6 from the three-point line, scoring 18 of his 24 points on a perfect night. He became the first 40-year old player since Michael Jordan to score over 24 points in a game. VC’s throwback performance was, for lack of a better word, Vinsane.
As a shooter, Carter excels coming off of handoffs and off of screens. Per Synergy, he is in the 83rd percentile of players on hand-off plays, scoring 1.075 points per possession. His smooth jumper and quick trigger allow him to get the necessary elevation for shots. Carter also has sneaky quick explosiveness when receiving the handoff, which also allows him to roll to the rim. Off of screens, he shoots it at a decent 49.1% aFG%. Having great hand off and screen setting teammates like Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph make Carter’s life easier.
Carter may not be dunking on fools like he did to Frederic Weis 17 years ago, but he can still get to the rim and finish. Carter has only 8 dunks on the season, but they’re sure to get “Vintage Carter!” calls from announcers and late night sports anchors alike. He shoots 49% on drives, per NBA.com/stats. His shooting allows him to fool defenders into biting on his pump fakes, making for potentially exciting plays as Carter glides to the rim. Below, Carter uses a Marc Gasol screen to get to the cup, scoring amidst the Chicago Bulls’ defense with a crafty righty scoop – with some hang time.
It may not be Air Canada, but it’s still air. His air game is more hot air balloon than rocket, with smooth glides and tricky body control when looking for a bucket in the paint.
Carter has always been an underrated ballhandler. But in his transition to a key role player, Carter has embraced a role as a pick and roll ballhandler. As a passer off pick and rolls, Carter’s roll men shoot at an astonishing 65%, scoring 63% of the time. Below, Carter finds Zach Randolph off of the pick and roll, finding him with a nice bounce pass after Steven Adams stepped up to deter the drive. The combined age of that pick and roll is 75, likely making it the oldest pick and roll tandem in the NBA this season.
Even as a defender, Carter is surprisingly sufficient. One would think that a 40-year old player would be a complete defensive liability, especially on the wings. Yet his basketball IQ and decent lateral quickness allows him to be a solid perimeter defender. His defensive rating ranks higher than JaMychal Green and Mike Conley, two of the Grizzlies’ key starters. While those numbers may be skewed because Carter mostly plays against second units, his decent defensive numbers are not worth discounting.
Carter is an excellent isolation defender, with opponents shooting a *sad emoji* 28.6% on possessions with Carter defending. Even defending spot ups, Carter allows opponents to shoot 36.4% from the field. Those are promising numbers any way you slice it.
Take a look at Carter’s defense on Andrew Wiggins. Wiggins, a Toronto native, has frequently mentioned how big of an influence Carter was for him maturing as a basketball player. Carter defends Wiggins well, denying the hand off and stopping Wiggins from gaining any ground on a drive. When he sets his focus on it, Carter can still defend adequately. He’s 40. We know.
Logan shows a man that knows his best days are behind him. In a way, Vince Carter has acknowledged that too. Obviously, the Memphis Grizzlies aren’t a Rated R rollicking road trip movie meets (literal) slasher flick, no matter how much you try. But Carter aged gracefully, changing his game over the years with a role player transformation. In the past, we’ve seen stars unable to change their game as they increase in years. But Carter has embraced his role. With the Memphis Grizzlies looking to make a run at the playoffs, Carter could play a major role for their success in April, May, and hopefully…June. This might be it for VC. Even in season 18, his late-career brilliance shouldn’t be overlooked.