The Sacramento Kings have gathered a solid core of young players since the DeMarcus Cousins trade. Their guard rotation is replete with young talent in De'Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield along with Frank Mason III. Their front court of the future is full of potential with Skal Labissiere, Willie Cauley-Stein, and Georgios Papagiannis along with 2017 rookie Harry Giles. Both the guards and the big men will receive plenty of veteran leadership from Garrett Temple, Kosta Koufos, and recent signings George Hill and Zach Randolph.
However, Sacramento had a major hole at small forward after Rudy Gay opted out of the last year of his contract. The Kings drafted Justin Jackson as a potential future starter on the wing, but the team had nobody who could fill that spot in the roster on Opening Night. Enter Vinsanity:
Vince Carter might not be the player who took the league by storm in the 2000 Dunk Contest at this point in his career. However, he is still a solid player who can play a sizable role for Sacramento next season. Since the team allowed Frank Mason III to suit up wearing #15 in his first Summer League game, it seems as if the Kings are trying to give that number away as quickly as possible, so Vince will even get to keep his VC15 style. Vince will be a valuable player both on and off the floor next season, despite being drafted before De'Aaron Fox was born.
Spot Starter and Veteran Mentor
Vince Carter played 24.6 minutes per game with the Grizzlies last season, which was the fifth-highest minutes average for the Grizzlies. Carter proved that he can still play major minutes in the NBA. While Vince mostly came off the bench for the Grizzlies, he still started 15 games for a playoff team in what has to be an encouraging sign for Kings fans.
Former Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger clearly played a role in luring Carter to Sacramento, in another strong sign that the Kings' front office has far more cachet around the league than they did with George Karl at the helm. Furthermore, Joerger's interest in Carter shows that he still believes in Vince's defensive abilities in addition to his great shooting touch.
Despite being far more well-known for his dunking ability, Vince Carter is one of the best shooters in league history. He is currently tied for fifth place all-time in three-point makes with 2049 triples to his name. Vince canned 37.8% of his three-point attempts last season, and he averaged 4.1 attempts per game from beyond the arc. His poor field goal percentage of 39.4% is a laughably bad representation of his shooting accuracy; a whopping 60.4% of Vince's shot attempts were from three-point range. Vince's True Shooting Percentage of 54.2% (which is close to league average) is a much better representation of his offensive game.
However, Vince's primary role in Sacramento will be to mentor the young players on the Kings' roster. Vince will receive and deserve ample playing time, which will help him earn the attention of any young player who might not have respected him purely due to his Hall of Fame career. Most intriguingly, Vince will be training Justin Jackson, a fellow former Tar Heel, as his successor. Jackson is not the same high-flying athlete as Carter, but then again few (if any) in NBA history could ever hope to match Vince's athleticism. While Jackson might not have the same athletic gifts as Vince, he stands to learn quite a bit from a player who transitioned from high flyer to old veteran with ridiculous longevity better than anyone could have expected.
If anyone doubts that Vince Carter can contribute to the Kings next season, just watch this video of Carter during a Grizzlies practice last season:
Vince Carter still has nearly unprecedented athleticism for someone his age. Furthermore, his sharpshooting ability from deep will allow him to contribute next season even if he finally takes a step back athletically. Older Kings fans will love Vince Carter for his occasional throwback moments to his dunking prime, and younger Kings fans will love Carter in hindsight as Sacramento's young players continue to grow from the lessons that Carter will leave behind. The Kings franchise will benefit from the privilege of having this Hall of Famer wander their halls for years to come, even if he is only there for next season.