So far, our player previews have focused on the young part of the Mavericks roster (Dahntay Jones excluded). We're now entering the "old guys" part of the preview and what better place to start than Vince Carter.
Carter was an interesting off-season addition last season. His reputation had gone from high-flying, electric swing-man to disinterested three-point chucker. Dallas needed help on the perimeter last year, and adding one that didn't get to the rim anymore and was over the age of 30 seemed absolutely silly. The old Mavericks got older with Carter.
But look beyond the Vince Carter fat jokes ("His beard hides his double-chin!") and you'll find a player that was more than serviceable last season and should continue to be a valuable rotation player yet again.
I picked this video because it shows how perfect a fit Carter can be for Dallas. Carter has played the two-guard spot for most of his career, but he's big enough to play the three and Dallas used that wonderfully on the offensive end. Whenever the Mavericks were slogging through a game on offense, Carter would be a perfect replacement for Shawn Marion. Dallas could space the floor with three point shooters at the guard and wing spots, preventing the man Marion guarded from being so quick to double-team Dirk Nowitzki. Dallas exploited this to great success in 2011-2012 and Carter obliged by knocking down 36 percent of his threes, a respectable number.
But Carter also gave the Mavericks a little bit of everything. He was a threat to score and pass in the pick and roll. His feet might have slowed down, but Carter compensated by using his strength to muscle-up weak-dribbling small-forwards, providing adequate defense to go along with the plus-offense. The Mavericks were plus-6.9 points per possession on offense when Carter was on the floor and the defense actually got a bit worse when he was off it, according to 82games.com (but you can chalk that up to Carter playing against weaker offensive opponents with the second-unit for most of the season.) One of the Mavericks best lineups (Jason Kidd + Jason Terry + Vince Carter + Dirk Nowitzki + Ian Mahinmi) featured Carter at the three, as the Mavericks kept him in either corner. They would run a set in the middle of the floor with Dirk Nowitzki. After Dirk curled off a down screen, he'd either drive or run a pick and pop with Jason Terry. Defenses typically converged on Terry/Nowitzki and Carter found himself open plenty of times with corner threes. Dallas had a deadly offense with this combination, and to Carter's credit, he created plenty of times when the shooter closed out, making a nice drop pass to either Mahinmi or Brandan Wright. Carter was a willing passer, which helped the second-unit offense tremendously and also made use of Mahinmi and Wright's skills at finishing around the rim.
Carter was invaluable as part of the Mavericks closing lineup, taking pressure off Dirk Nowtizki, like shown below:
Most of the reason why Dallas fans rolled their eyes was because of Carter's selfish reputation and declining skills. Rick Carlisle apparently knows how to get the most out of Carter but unfortunately, Carter is prone to drifting throughout games. It's what makes him so frustrating: Carter will dominate off the bench like he did against the Jazz in April, but will go MIA for the next two games, before coming back strong again. The key difference with this play in Dallas as opposed to his other stops is that Carter is a bench player and the Mavericks are stocked at the off-guard spot. Dallas simply doesn't need Carter to look like the Carter in the video above every single night for 35 minutes. They just need him for the occasional 25-minute game where the offense is bogged down and Shawn Marion's defense isn't needed. That's what makes Carter such a valuable bench piece -- he's still capable of dominating stretches of a game, but with reduced bench minutes, those outbursts aren't as frustratingly inconsistent.
Where does Carter fit in for 2012-2013? The same position he found himself in toward the end of the year and the playoffs last season: backup small-forward. The Mavericks have a surplus of guards but find themselves surprisingly thin at the wings, with Marion, Carter and rookie Jae Crowder being the only true small-forwards on the roster. Luckily, Rick Carlisle is great at mixing and matching and being able to run three-guard lineups. For the majority of the season, however, expect Carter to come in and spell Marion for a few minutes, or finish the game if Dallas desperately needs his offense. The Mavericks posted up Carter quite a bit last season with OK-results. With more weapons off the bench, don't expect Carter to dominate the ball as much as he did with the second-unit last season (over a 20 percent usage rate in 2011-2012.)
There's no reason to doubt that Carter should have another solid season in Dallas. If anything, he could be a bit better -- he'll have his first true off-season under the Mavericks coaching staff. Carter is a player that usually only gets noticed nationally for what he's done in the past rather than his present. The Mavericks are fine with that. Vince Carter the Maverick hasn't been anything close to the catastrophe that some expected and he'll provide Dallas with a versatile, offensive-threat off the bench.