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Memphis Grizzlies 2016-2017 Player Previews: Vince Carter

Can the 8-time All Star bounce back from his two worst seasons ever?

Vince Carter dunk

A note: I am not the only GBB staffer to ponder just how much time Vince Carter has left with the Grizzlies -- and in the NBA. Our Fearless Leader wrote a great piece on this very subject two months ago, definitely worth a gander.

2015-16 Season Overview

Chandler Parsons isn’t the first sharpshooting Dallas Maverick to be recruited into Grit ’N’ Grind service. An older, wiser Vince Carter was pried away from The Dirk & Cuban Show in 2014, with Chris Wallace, John Hollinger, and Dave Joerger hoping he could bring to Beale Street some of the role playing magic that made him such a great cog in the Longhorn State. Instead, the then-37 year-old’s body promptly fell apart. He missed 16 games during his first Grizz season, and 22 during his second. He saw his minutes slashed to an average of 16.7 across two seasons, and he watched his shooting collapse over that same interim.

During his final Dallas season in 2013-14, Carter logged over 24.4 minutes a night (and in 81 of 82 possible regular season nights), averaging 39.4% shooting from three-point range and an uninspiring-but-okay 40.7% from the field — he also averaged 11.9 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 2.7 assists a night. Last season, his second with Memphis, Vince Carter averaged 6.6 points, 2 boards, and just 0.9 dimes. The worst part, though, is the completion percentages: he shot just 38.8% from the field overall, coupled with a league-average-level 34.9% three-point conversion rate. The crazy thing is, the 2015-16 season’s numbers represented marked improvements over Carter’s stats when he first joined Memphis — he made just a third of his shots from the field in 2014-15, and converted his three-pointers at a miserable 29.7% clip. The dip in three-point shooting must have stung most of all. What had just recently been Vinsanity’s biggest attribute, in his post-Nets role as mystic sage and system player, became a skill that he wasn’t quite good enough at to stay on the floor when it mattered. The former Half Man, Half Amazing also averaged 0.6 steals and a scant 0.3 turnovers for the Grizzlies last year. At least his free throw shooting has yet to fall off the proverbial cliff: Carter made 83.3% of his looks from the charity stripe, his best number since the 2008-09 season.

Vince Carter looked so done as the calendar rolled over to 2016 that the Bleacher Report wrote a depressingly on-the-nose article bemoaning the end of his career (called "The Lion In Winter") way back in February. And it was hard to disagree: by then, Carter was regularly being benched by former Memphis head coach Dave Joerger. As that Bleacher Report article mentions, Joerger shelved the 6’6" UNC product in 11 of the team’s first 19 games, despite Carter being healthy.

But Joerger is gone now, and Air Canada’s going to lace up the sneakers for the entirety of the $4.3 million owed him this year. This marks the final year of Carter’s contract. Is he going to call it a career at the end of the season, much like fellow Class of ’98 All Star alum Paul Pierce intends to do? Does he, like Pierce, deserve a Hall of Fame induction, when he arguably didn’t start playing his absolute, maximal hardest until he landed with Dallas in 2011? Is there any way Vince Carter can become the player who scared the eventual 2014 NBA champion San Antonio Spurs in a hotly contested 7-game first round playoff series that season? Can he ever get there again?

Projected Role

Carter has started in just four of his 126 regular season games wearing the blue and white. That trend will continue this season, if he is allotted much time off the bench this season at all. He’ll be duking it out with a bevy of unproven wing commodities on the pine, and if Carter’s body continues to betray him and/or one of the young scrubs emerges, there’s a decent chance that Memphis tries to package him in a trade before February’s deadline. Kind of weird that the grizzliest of the Memphis Grizzlies is also one of the most expendable, at least among the rotation guys.

Still, Vince Carter is a venerated locker room presence now, and can remain a long-range sniping or close-range rim-rattling option (probably not both at once) if caught on the right night. He’s more trick-or-treat than Trick-Or-Treat Tony at this point in his career. Unlike Allen, though Vince Carter’s defense has wildly eroded from even his Dallas days, he can give you a few minutes as a mediocre team defender, and every once in a while he gets his vertical spring back and can block some young buck, but that’s more the exception than the rule.

Best-Case Scenario

Reinvigorated by the coaching change, Vince Carter has a bounce-back year, making one last push to be the wily, two-way, 3-and-D piece he was for Dallas. A return to the Half-Man, Half-Amazing days sure ain’t in the cards. But Carter can channel his crafty-old-man game energy, and will be looked to as a brilliant veteran who peaks in the playoffs, when it matters most, Richard Jefferson-style.

Worst-Case Scenario

Vince Carter continues to fall off a cliff statistically, phones it in early in the season, grows a classic Fat Vince Carter Beard to conceal a 20-pound offseason weight gain, pouts at front office members, teammates, and fans alike, and re-injures his left foot, but this time it’s a season-ending bone break. All this makes him completely impossible to trade — but his toxic locker room behavior has made him impossible to keep around, so Memphis is forced to waive him via the stretch provision, hurting the team’s financial books with his dead money next season.

Overall Expectations

Realistically, Vinsanity will fall somewhere in the middle of these expectations — meaning he will contribute the occasional meaningful trey (and...maybe...a little more throwback magic?) in game-time situations, serve as a mentor to the new blood riding the pine with him, and miss 20-30 games with a bunch of lower body injuries. I say he’ll average 12 minutes a game, with a slash line of 5 points/2 rebounds/0.5 dishes/2 three-pointers per contest.

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