You might say Jevon Carter was destined to be a Memphis Grizzly.
He’s tough, defensive-minded, and if there was such a thing, he’d be named 1st Team All-Hustle. His mother is from Memphis, for goodness sakes. His drafting (as well as Jaren Jackson’s) seemingly coinciding with Memphis’ return to their Grit N Grind mantra seemed more fate than coincidence.
However, the 32nd pick in the 2018 NBA Draft has the potential to be somewhat of a polarizing player. He represents a unique mix of what Grizzlies brass wants, but not necessarily what they need. Carter is a bulldog. He won the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year during his final season at West Virigina and can take pride in the fact that he was one of the few players in college basketball who carried the team on offense and defense, leading the Mountaineers in points, assists and steals.
While Carter led the team on both ends of the floor, he’s a defensive player first and foremost. He shot 42% overall this past year and 40% overall for his collegiate career. Not great numbers, but that can happen when you carry the burden that Carter did. Here we will take a look at why Carter could end up being the right or wrong player for Memphis.
Why he’s right
To determine why Carter makes sense for the Grizzlies, let’s examine their other moves since the end of the season. They drafted Jaren Jackson Jr., who has amazing upside as a shot-blocking, shot-making stud. They signed Omri Casspi to the veteran’s minimum, who adds three point shooting to the rotation.
Memphis then signed Kyle Anderson away from the rival Spurs, who is known as a versatile playmaker with outstanding defensive chops. Then they traded Ben McLemore and Deyonta Davis for Sacramento Kings wing Garrett Temple, who adds even more playmaking and defense to the wing but is a better shooter than Anderson. These moves aren’t flashy, but are consistent with the tough, smart and defensive vision that Grizzlies front office has said they want to build going into the season.
Carter adds to this theme. A hard-nosed defender capable of creating for teammates, offense might not be Carter’s specialty, but it isn’t a weakness either. His place on the team potentially allows Andrew Harrison more time as an off-ball guard without completely tanking the offense. Second units featuring some combination of Carter, Temple, Jackson Jr., Harrison and players like Chandler Parsons or Kyle Anderson give Memphis a switchy feel without completely sacrificing offensive spacing.
Giving Carter a chance to run with the starters is gravy. His scoring outbursts in Summer League also lend to his credibility to his offensive talent, if his shooting improves he can at least avoid too many Tony Allen comparisons.
Why he’s wrong
While Carter was most likely a lock to be drafted, some, including myself, were skeptical of his selection. None of this was a result of his production, but a result of who was still available at the time. Khryi Thomas and Keita Bates-Diop would have been solid picks to fill out what was a shaky wing rotation. Jalen Brunson is a proven winner and has a more well-rounded game. Thomas and Bates-Diop were slated as mid-to-late first round picks in most mock drafts and have great potential as 3 and D wings and guards in the case of Thomas.
Now with the moves that Memphis has made in free agency, this is all merely speculation. A wing rotation that seemed weak a few weeks ago has been give a shot in the arm. But it does beg the question: how much regret will the Grizzlies have if one or more of these young players go on to have better careers than Carter?
The other big reason for worry about Carter stems from some of his Summer League performances. While he had some big moments, like his 26 point outburst against the Jazz, his performances were oftentimes inefficient and left fans wanting more. He averaged 12.6 points per game to go along with 5.4 rebounds and 4.8 assists. Unfortunately he shot a woeful 37% from the field and 19% from three.
Granted, Carter was playing with and against fringe NBA players and other rookies who have never played together, and shooting numbers both good and bad can be fool’s gold if you take them as gospel. Still, more consistent offensive play would have been nice to see. Jevon’s numbers should improve with experience as well as playing with better teammates, but the numbers are enough to at least give some Grizzlies’ fans apprehension.
Jevon Carter could have been born to be a Grizzly. He could be the next in a line of recent draft pick misfires. There’s always a risk/reward factor when it comes to finding players in the draft. Finding solid contributors in the second round is even harder. Many never quite make it in the competitive world of professional basketball.
A Jevon Carter appreciation post pic.twitter.com/z0mn0wdpNe— Memphis Grizzlies (@memgrizz) July 6, 2018
While Carter has his flaws, he fits the new mold of Grit N Grind and has the talent and the drive to help Memphis fight their way back into the playoff picture. Based on what we know about Jevon, I don’t think he’d have it any other way.