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Vince Carter's Playoff Performance Can Take Memphis to New Heights

The Grizzlies acquired the famed Vince Carter this past summer. His arrival flared excitement from fans, but his performance this year has been a mixed bag. But the true test for Carter will be during this postseason. Could Vince be the solution to Memphis' playoff shooting woes?

Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

For years, the Grizzlies' main hurdle has been their lack of outside shooting. With the departure of Mike Miller this past summer, Memphis hoped Vince Carter would help solve their problems. So far, there have been sparks of brilliant shooting that have been largely overshadowed by long stretches of poor play. But Carter's shot could be the key to the Grizzlies' championship aspirations.

After suffering an injury that sidelined him for fourteen games, Carter returned to the court against the Los Angeles Lakers. For a small handful of games, it seemed that Vince hadn't improved much shooting-wise. For much of the season, Carter sat in an absolute shooting slump. In the month of November, Carter was shooting 30.6% from three and 34.8% from the field. For December, his three point shooting rose considerably to 35.7%, and his field goal percentage rose to 38.4%. For a stretch of games in December, Carter appeared to be developing into what the Grizzlies really needed. In the middle of the month, Vince had a six game stretch of double-digit scoring performances, but it didn't last. For the fifteen games he played in January, he shot a miserable 16% from three and was shooting 27.9% overall from the field. Coming into this season, Carter had ankle surgery, and he clearly wasn't fully healed when the season started. He was constantly wrapping something around his ankle while he was on the bench. Then, in a blowout win over Denver in January, Carter went down with a left foot tendon injury. And while the injury wasn't pleasant news, it was a blessing in disguise. As he rested, his ankles were able to heal, and he took plenty of time to recover from his tendon injury.

On March 7th, Carter made his much anticipated return. For the month of March, Vince shot 40% from three and 36.7% from the field. Carter seems to be shooting the ball with more rhythm and ease. During a stretch in March, Vince shot at least four threes in three of four games.

His talents aren't entirely confined to just shooting, however. He delivered the perfect pass to Courtney Lee for a miracle game-winner over Sacramento back in November:

The Memphis Grizzlies have had many of the "right" pieces to contend for a championship for several years, except that outside shooting has been a consistent problem in the playoffs. Vince Carter could be the key to the Grizzlies' championship hopes. When Carter played for the Dallas Mavericks last year, he delivered mightily in the playoffs. Although Dallas did drop out of the first round against the San Antonio Spurs, Vince contributed to Dallas' pushing the series to seven games. In the series, he averaged 12.6 points. Additionally, he shot 48.4% from three shooting from range fifteen times in the series. From the field, he shot an impressive 45.6%. During the regular season, however, he had only averaged 11.6 points. Statistically, he appears to be better in the playoffs than in the regular season.

These numbers are significantly better than what Carter has averaged this season for Memphis. As March rolled on, however, Vince appeared to be picking up his pace, just slightly. The Grizzlies can only hope Carter's play continues to trend upward:

Vince has even shown he's still got some hops:

Vince Carter has only scored over fifteen points twice this season; both performances resulted in wins for Memphis. When he has scored at least ten points, the Grizz are 7-4. All four of those losses came during the stretch when the Grizzlies were without the services of Zach Randolph. When Vince scores at least 8 points, the Grizz are 15-5. Over the course of this season, Carter has had stretches of fantastic play. However, these stretches have been buried underneath droughts of unproductive games and inefficient shooting. In the month of March, when Carter has scored five or fewer points, Memphis is an abysmal 3-6.

Clearly, Vince Carter's success can also reflect the Grizzlies' general success. Most say the Grizz can go only as far as Mike Conley and Marc Gasol can take them, but I say a good bit of Memphis' ceiling depends on Carter in the playoffs, which is full of high-pressure situations. The point is, Vince Carter is used to making big plays:

Over the years, Vince hasn't lost his crunch-time touch. Vince may have the chance to square off against his former team, the Dallas Mavericks, if the standings stay the way they are currently. Vince came through for Dallas multiple times in the three years he played with them, and he'll have his chance with the Grizzlies this postseason. We already have Mike Conley, aka Captain Clutch, but we need Vince to take on a similar role as well. The Grizzlies have for years lacked a true shooter in the playoffs when facing tough opponents such as the San Antonio Spurs. Vince Carter can change that. He can help write history. Carter can help bring a championship parade to Beale Street.