Vince, The Mavs & The Hall-Of-Fame Debate
As the NBA season begins to slowly creep up on the calendar -- training camp is here! -- there are two Dallas Mavericks storylines that most people will be focusing on: 1) will Dirk Nowitzki return to All-Star form after a frustrating, injury-riddled season and 2) how will the Mavs' newest acquisitions effect their playoff chances?
Curiosity alone will keep bringing us back to those questions, but they aren't the only things to look out for in Dallas this upcoming season. I try my best not to throw the "L word" around too much, but the legacy of a few veteran Mavericks are worth keeping an eye on moving forward. One of those players is Vince Carter.
Carter brings with him perhaps the most polarizing Hall-of-Fame debates of his generation. The opinions are so varied that, despite arguably being one of the 15 most recognizable players of the past 15 years, the final seasons of his career may actually determine whether or not he is inducted into Springfield one day.
Before we break down his case much further, let me give you the oversimplified shtick on Carter.
Talent-wise, he is a Hall-of-Famer. He is one of the most gifted players this league has ever seen and 10 minutes on YouTube will confirm that. But some argue that in terms of effort, accountability and winning, he might not make the cut. The effort and accountability arguments are subjective, but it's accurate -- and maybe meaningful -- to say he has never come anywhere close to winning a championship in his 15 seasons in the NBA.
Statistically, let's try to put a little bit of perspective on Carter's career. He is 27th on the NBA's all-time scoring list with 22,223 points. Every single eligible player who is ahead of him on that list is in the Hall. Of the active players ahead of him, the only ones who even border on not making the Hall of Fame are Ray Allen and Allen Iverson. It's hard to imagine either of them not making the cut.
In 2006, Detroit Pistons guard Joe Dumars was inducted into the Hall of Fame. Having played just one more season than Dumars played, Carter has scored nearly 6,000 more points than him. Carter has recorded more than twice as many rebounds as him. Dumars doesn't even come close to Carter in steals or blocks. Dumars recorded 83 blocks in his career compared to Carter's 709. Carter, of course, has a height advantage, but they play essentially the same position and Dumars was often heralded as a very good defensive player.
Below are the Per 36 career averages of a few players including Carter:
Player 1: 16.8 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 4.7 apg, .46% FG Player 2: 16.6 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 5.4 apg, 47.3% FG Player 3: 21.3 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 5.9 apg, 47.2% FG Player 4: 19.6 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 3.3 apg, 52.1% FG Player 5: 21.5 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 3.9 apg, 44.3% FG
Player 5 is Vince Carter. The other players in order are Joe Dumars, Scottie Pippen, Clyde Drexler and James Worthy, all Hall of Famers.
Now, understand that I don't mean to rank these players in any way and I know that comparing players that played in different eras based on statistics ignores a number of varying factors. I'm not trying to prove that Carter is better than any of these four players, but the statistics above might suggest that he at least belongs in a similar class as they do.
But the fact remains that all four of those players have multiple championships while the furthest Carter has made it in the postseason is the second round in 2001 when he led the Toronto Raptors against an Allen Iverson-led Philadelphia team that eventually made it to the NBA Finals.
And then there's his reputation. There are plenty of people that will always view Carter as a player who didn't give maximum effort, coasted on his talent, feuded with coaches and management and forced his way out of Toronto. There's enough evidence of these things to at least make it a conversation, but the Mavs will swear to you that they must be overblown and shouldn't define his career.
These things can't be proven or disproven. They are opinions. But they are opinions that matter and could perhaps keep him out of the Hall of Fame.
However, they are not the opinions of people who have watched him for the past two seasons in Dallas.
Carter has earned a reputation as a team leader on the Mavericks, a mentor to younger players, a defensive workhorse and a crowd favorite. Cuban, Carlisle and Dirk -- three voices I assume the HOF would listen to -- endorse him in all categories. Perhaps Carter has burned some bridges over the course of his career, but that hasn't been the case recently.
And in terms of media friendliness (which does seem to play a role)? Carter has been extremely professional and has provided thoughtful and patient responses to even the most redundant lines of questioning.
Grantland's Zach Lowe may have said it best in a piece he wrote back in December: "Carter has earned that skepticism. But that shouldn't blind us to a fun little late-career evolution happening in Dallas – the kind of evolution that a lot of players never figure out."
If we are to dock Carter HOF points for his less than stellar reputation (something very subjective) than it's only fair that he be credited as one of the most exciting players in the history of basketball. In a pre-Lebron/Wade/Carmelo/Durant era of the NBA Carter held court as "Vincesanity'' and "Half-Man, Half Amazing.'' Whether they like to admit it or not, there a number of 20-something NBA fans all over the world who might not be as enamored with the sport if Vince Carter hadn't been making nightly appearances on their televisions screens 10-plus years ago.
Whether or not Carter would make the Hall of Fame if he retired today is a difficult call. But he's not retiring today. And what he can accomplish going forward could make all the difference. Or more specifically, what the Mavericks can accomplish going forward.
A lot of people around the Mavericks' organization claim Carter does all the sorts of things that help a team win games, but when he's playing for a team that isn't winning all that many games, people will mostly remain unimpressed.
The Mavericks will need strong play from Carter to make any noise in the Western Conference and if they do, it might just eliminate the biggest knock on the 36-year old scorer.
They need him to win. They need him to clear his rep. And we're selfish, so we need it all to work, too.
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