Memphis Grizzlies: Why Vince Carter is the X-factor

Vince Carter is someone who will go down in history as one of the greatest shooting guards of all time. An 8 time All-Star, the Rookie of the Year in 1999, the winner of the 2000 Slam Dunk Contest,  and 25th in career points in the history of the NBA, Carter has already carved up a Hall of Fame worthy career.

Memphis Grizzlies

Vince Carter dunking during the 2000 Slam Dunk Contest

By signing with the Memphis Grizzlies during this offseason, Carter all but assured that he will be ending his career with the team. Some people may feel that at this point in his career, Carter may have very little energy left in the tank. However, even in his age, the 37-year-old has the ability to contribute to the Grizzlies in multiple ways, making him the person who could be the X-factor for the team next season.

Vince Carter: The Swingman?

Including Carter, the Grizzlies currently have six shooting guards on their roster. This includes Tony Allen and Courtney Lee, two players who will probably eat up the majority of the time at this position. However, the Grizzlies only have two players listed as small forwards signed to next year’s roster: Tayshaun Prince and Quincy Pondexter. Prince is in a similar position that Carter in that he will be seeing less time than a starter should due to his age. It wouldn’t be surprising to see the two veterans share the load at the small forward position rather than Carter getting a ton of time as a shooting guard, something that would seem more favorable than giving Pondexter a ton of minutes.

The other possibility is that Allen may see some time as a small forward, instead. Despite only being 6’5’’ tall, he showed that height isn’t a big issue for him when he was successfully able to defend Kevin Durant during this year’s playoffs. One would be hard pressed to say there is any small forward in the league harder to defend than Durant, so because of this, Allen may see a lot of time as a small forward instead of Carter.

Carter will either be spending his playing time filling the Grizzlies’ main weakness or at the position he has played during his whole career. Either way, the versatility that Carter has based on his build could prove to be a win-win situation for the Grizzlies.

The Veteran Age Exception

The usual pattern with veterans is that they tend to slowly play worse each year as their body wears down from the rigorous NBA schedule. However, that is sometimes not the case. Veterans, and especially those that were superstars in their prime, oftentimes have years where they play at a little bit of a higher level than they have been in the past. This doesn’t mean that people should expect a season where Carter averages 20 points per game, but it does mean that Carter can have an outstanding season just as easily as he can have a poor one. And, if he has an outstanding season for someone of his age, that will really help the Grizzlies’ offense next season, as the team really only has room to go up after scoring the 4th fewest points per game out of all teams last season.

Memphis Grizzlies: Why there are no free agents worth pursuing

The Ability to be a Sharpshooter

Memphis Grizzlies

Vince Carter during his tenure with the Phoenix Suns

With the exception of Jon Leuer, no player returning to the Grizzlies this season shot higher than 35% beyond the arc. However, Leuer still probably won’t be playing too many minutes during the regular season, so the only person that will be on the court often that can consistently shoot three-point shots will be Carter.

It isn’t right to call Carter a sharpshooter. However, he has been slowly developing a better three-point shot over his career, to the point where the past two seasons has seen him average 40% from beyond the arc despite aging over the past decade. While these numbers aren’t excellent, they are satisfactory for someone who is going to be taking the bulk of shots for the Grizzlies beyond the arc as Carter likely will be.

Carter probably won’t be sinking three-point shots as well as Mike Miller did for the Grizzlies last year, but the fact that the team has him to shoot them in general is something that they can be happy about, because, for a while, it looked like the team wasn’t going to be able to find someone who could shoot beyond the arc whatsoever. He will have the chance to carve his own role into the team by shooting even better beyond the arc than he has been in recent years, as he has proven in the past that he can shoot as high as 42.5% from outside. If he can get closer to these numbers rather than the 35% that he sometimes is only able to achieve, he will win the Grizzlies more than a few games due to late-game three point baskets.