With the NBA working towards the resumption of the 2019-20 season, early reports indicate that the Atlanta Hawks will not be among the teams invited to compete in the conclusion of the campaign. With that, 24-year veteran Vince Carter has played his last NBA game.
If this truly is the end to a tremendous career, Carter is clearly a Hall of Fame talent. However, will be enshrined a First Ballot member?
Out of the University of North Carolina, Vince Carer was touted as one of the top prospects entering the 1998 NBA Draft. With the fourth overall selection, the Toronto Raptors selected Carter’s teammate in Antawn Jamison.
The Raptors, who wanted Carter the entire time, shipped Jamison to the Golden State Warriors in exchange for the fifth pick and additional cash considerations. As a result, Carter entered the NBA as a member of the Toronto Raptors.
In his first season, Carter made an immediate impact with the Raptors. En route to winning Rookie of the Year, he averaged 18.3 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 3.0 assists per game. Despite only winning 23 games in his rookie season, Carter was named to the All-Rookie First Team.
Carter continued to stand out among his peers in the early stages of his career. During the 2000 season, Carter earned an Olympic gold medal, a Slam Dunk Contest award, and led the Raptors to their first playoff appearance in franchise history.
Despite being swept by the New York Knicks, we have to remember the Raptors’ win percentage jumped up 48.9% in comparison to the previous year. In addition, the Knicks were loaded in experience with veterans in Patrick Ewing, Latrell Sprewell, and Allan Houston.
The following season, Carter was the only player on the Raptors to average 15+ points per game in a year in which the team reached the playoffs once again. In a rematch against the Knicks, Toronto won the series in five games. One round later, the Philadelphia 76ers, led by Allen Iverson, knocked out the Raptors in a tight seven-game series.
Carter Gets Paid
From 2000-02, the Toronto Raptors led the NBA in attendance. The spotlight that Vince Carter was creating was only getting brighter, and he was paid for his contributions to the success of the franchise. In August of 2001, the Raptors and Carter agreed to a six-year, $94 million extension.
Traded To Nets
In the 2003-04 season, the Raptors missed the playoffs by a mere three games. As a result, General Manager Glen Grunwald and the coaching staff were fired. Rumors indicated that Carter and the front office were unable to see eye-to-eye on the future of the franchise, and his play on the court regressed slightly.
In December of 2004, the Nets agreed to trade Alonzo Mourning, Aaron Williams, Eric Williams, and two first-round picks for Carter. The pick in 2005 resulted in Joey Graham, while the selection in 2006 and Jalen Rose were traded for Antonio Davis.
During his time with Raptors, Carter averaged 23.7 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 3.9 assists per game.
Continued Success in New Jersey
During his four full seasons with the Nets, Carter was never forced to miss more than 15 games in a single season. After reaching the playoffs in three consecutive seasons before Carter arrived, he was apart of the team that played in five playoff series in a three-year stretch.
During both the 2004-05 and 2005-06 season, the Nets were knocked out by Dwyane Wade, Shaquille O’Neal, and the Miami Heat. The Nets were a combined 1-8 against the Heat during Carter’s time in New Jersey. The following year, the team was stopped by LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in six games.
From New Jersey to Orlando
With no NBA Finals appearances, the Nets decided a rebuild was on the horizon. In February of 2008, the team shipped a centerpiece player in Jason Kidd to the Dallas Mavericks. One year later, New Jersey dealt Vince Carter and Ryan Anderson to the Orlando Magic in exchange for Rafer Alston, Tony Battie and Courtney Lee.
At the end of his tenure in New Jersey, Carter averaged 23.6 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 4.7 assists per game.
Over the next five years, Carter’s play regressed. During his time with the Magic (97 games), Phoenix Suns (51 games), and Dallas Mavericks (223 games), he still managed to average 10+ points per game in a smaller role.
He reached the playoffs on two occassions with the Mavericks, but the team lost in the first round in 2012 to the Thunder, and then again to the Spurs in 2014.
Playing as a Mentor
Without major extensions or playing time, Carter began to adapt into a mentor role. Over the last six years of his NBA career, he played a role with the Memphis Grizzlies, Sacramento Kings, and Atlanta Hawks. He only averaged 20+ minutes per game once in his last six years.
His role allowed him to connect with younger players, and showcase the “right” way to play the game of basketball.
“It’s just that sometimes I see things and it’s a team thing, we’re trying to win. It’s not like I’m trying to be a coach. I don’t want to be a coach, but I want to help these guys. I want to be a mentor, I want to be a leader of the team, even though I’m not the face of the team. I’d love to still be a leader. And these guys can rely on me, good and bad.”
In total, Carter is an eight-time All-Star, Olympic Champion, and one of the most notorious dunkers in NBA history. His statistical rankings include 25,728 total points (19th all-time), 46,370 minutes played (15th), and 2,290 3PM (6th).
During his long tenure, he is the only player in NBA history to play in four different decades.
Carter is a Hall of Fame talent, but will his team’s struggles in the playoffs prevent him from being a First Ballot nomination?