Former All-Star Vince Carter was one of the most explosive players in basketball history, but there is a growing segment of NBA fans that never witnessed the guard during his absolute prime years when he ran roughshod on opposing defenses. When the 2016-17 campaign begins Carter will be embarking on his nineteenth NBA season.
Professional sports are filled with egos and those solely seeking individual accolades and fame aren’t hard to spot, but Carter has masterfully made the transition from superstar franchise player to an end-of-the-bench veteran team leader. NBA history is littered with players who couldn’t make the transition from being focal points to niche role players – Carter has been able to shift roles seamlessly, and if he’s bothered by it, no one would know it.
Carter is currently in the final season of his deal with the Memphis Grizzlies. The contract, worth $4.2 million, isn’t fully guaranteed until January 2017 and the franchise currently has a payroll north of $105 million. But the veteran recently stated he’d like to finish out next season and pursue a twentieth campaign once he becomes a free agent next summer.
“I just love to play,” Carter recently told ESPN. “It’s not out of me yet. When I don’t want to play and don’t want to put the work in, that’s when I step away from the game, but right now I still love it.
“Not right now. We know (season) number 19 is definitely going to go down. I’m shooting for 20, and we’ll go from there after that.”
Carter averaged 6.6 points per game in 60 appearances last season with Memphis. The output was the second-lowest of his career, but an uptick over his 5.8 point per game average the previous season. However, Carter’s role in Memphis isn’t about padding the box score. The Grizzlies are a veteran-laden team built on mental toughness with their eyes on contending for a title.
The elusive championship is about the only accolade that has eluded Carter during his playing career up until this point. College All-American, All-NBA selections, All-Star appearances and an Olympic Gold Medal populate Carter’s mantle, but will the Hall of Fame eventually come calling?
Let’s take a look:
According to Basketball Reference, Carter has a Hall of Fame probability of 95 percent. That ranks him eleventh among active players behind LeBron James, Kevin Garnett, Dwyane Wade, Dirk Nowitzki, Chris Paul, Paul Pierce, Chris Bosh, Kevin Durant and Dwight Howard. On this list, Paul, Durant and Howard are the only players without a ring.
Carter currently ranks 24th on the NBA’s all-time scoring list with 23,969 points. If Carter duplicated last year’s scoring production (6.6 points / 60 games), he could surpass Hall of Fame guard Allen Iverson for 23rd on the list.
While the Basketball Hall of Fame may eventually call Carter’s name, the earliest that may occur is 2023 if the veteran guard’s body can hold up to make a run for season number 20.
Winslow Ready to Leap?
One of the wild cards entering the 2016-17 season are the Miami HEAT. The franchise has so many question marks heading into training camp that it’s very tough to slot a true expectation. How will they adjust to life after All-Star guard Dwyane Wade? How will emerging center Hassan Whiteside continue to develop after locking in a near-$100 million deal this summer? Will future Hall of Fame forward Chris Bosh be able to overcome his medical issues and return to the court? How will the team adjust to losing steady veteran contributors Luol Deng and Joe Johnson in free agency?
Those questions are just a sample of what the HEAT will have to address after coming within one game of reaching the Eastern Conference Finals this past season.
But another question the team faces is whether forward Justise Winslow is ready to take a significant leap in year two and emerge as the team’s starting small forward. The need for Winslow to thrive this season has been magnified due to the departures of Deng and Johnson.
According to numerous reports, HEAT team president Pat Riley believes Winslow has the goods to do so.
“Even before he said that, I kind of had that in my mind… I’m expecting a huge leap in my performance,” Winslow said according to the Miami Herald.
Winslow averaged 8.1 points and 6.5 rebounds as a rookie in 78 contests (eight starts). The talent is clearly there, but he will need to improve his outside shot (42 percent from the floor in 2015-16, and just 28 percent from three).
But the 2017 season will also be one where more leadership is needed from Winslow as Miami begins a potential transition.
In a recent podcast, Winslow told fellow former Duke University guard Jon Scheyer: “Unfortunately for me, [Dwyane] Wade was a guy I Iooked up to. He’s gone. Joe [Johnson] is gone. Lu [Deng] is gone. It’s my turn. Embrace the opportunity. Try to make this a year to make the front office feel confident in building around me for the future. I’m looking forward to the green light. My role is going to be so much bigger. I have to learn how to step up vocally.”
The former lottery pick will have every opportunity to take on a much larger share in the franchise hierarchy moving forward.
Rookie of The Year Watch – 12/13/17
Shane Rhodes checks back in on what’s become a relatively consistent Rookie of the Year race.
It has been a pretty ho-hum Rookie of The Year race so far in the 2017-18 season, with the top rookies staking their claims to this list at the beginning of the season and, for the most part, staying there. While there has been some movement up and down over the season and since our last installment, for the large part those who were on the list remain on the list.
Those players have earned their spots on this list with their play, however. This rookie class is one of the better, more exciting classes in recent memory. These players have just managed to remain at the top of the hill.
Let’s take a look at this week’s rankings.
By virtue of John Collins missing time due to injury, Markkanen jumps back onto this list. However, that’s not to say Markkanen has played poorly this season. On the contrary, the former Arizona Wildcat and current Chicago Bull has played very well; it’s just hard to get recognized when you are on the worst team in the league.
Markkanen is averaging 14.7 points and 8.1 rebounds per game, third and second among rookies, respectively, while adding 1.3 assists per game as well. Athletic enough to get his own shot and big enough to be a mismatch when he’s on the floor, Markkanen is probably the best (healthy) offensively player the Bulls have. While his defensive game isn’t great, his defensive rating of 106.4 still ranks ninth amongst rookies.
Perhaps most importantly, Markkanen inspires hope for a brighter future in Bulls fans that have watched the team plummet from the 50-win team it was just three seasons ago.
His shooting percentages continue to underwhelm and the Dallas Mavericks still have one of the worst records in the NBA, but Dennis Smith Jr. has been one of the Mavs’ bright spots this season while averaging 14.4 points, four rebounds and four assists per game.
While he hasn’t been a great shooter overall, Smith Jr. has managed to be a big contributor on offense for the Mavs, with an offensive rating of 101.4, ninth among rookies, and an assist percentage of 25.2 percent, fourth among rookies. He is second on the team in scoring behind Harrison Barnes’ 18.4 points per game as well. He is still a work in progress, but Dallas has found a keeper in Smith Jr.
4. Kyle Kuzma, Los Angeles Lakers (Last Week: 3)
While the Lakers have stumbled over the past few weeks, Kuzma continues to play well when he is on the floor. He still paces the Los Angeles Lakers in scoring with an average of 16.1 points per game, third among rookies, while also dishing in 6.6 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game.
Kuzma is now second among rookies in double-doubles with eight on the season and three in his last five games. With a diverse offensive game, the power forward should continue to impress as the season goes along.
Donovan Mitchell has been electrifying in recent weeks. Second in scoring among rookies, Mitchell is averaging 17.3 points per game to go along with three rebounds and 3.2 assists. As his confidence has grown, so to have his field goal percentage and three-point percentages. Mitchell has led the Utah Jazz in scoring in 11 of their 27 games, and is second on the Jazz in scoring too, behind Rodney Hood’s 17.7 points per game.
Mitchell became the second rookie ever, first since Blake Griffin in 2011, to score more than 40 points in a single game after going for 41 against the New Orleans Pelicans. Coupling that with his high-flying athleticism, Mitchell has been one of the best rookies to watch this season.
Jayson Tatum is on pace to be only the second rookie ever to lead the league in three-point percentage. In over 38 years, the only other player to do it was Anthony Morrow, who shot 46.7 percent on 2.7 attempts per game during the 2008-09 regular season. Tatum is currently shooting 50 percent on over three attempts per game.
The 19-year-old forward has also made a near seamless transition from the isolation-dominated basketball that he played at Duke, and has flourished as the third, fourth and sometimes even fifth option on offense, having scored in double digits in 25 of 29 games and averaging 13.8 points per game on the season. His defense continues to be better than advertised as well.
Tatum has been Mr. Clutch among rookies as well. In the last five minutes of the fourth quarter or overtime, Tatum has 14 field goals on 21 attempts, seventh in the entire NBA and tops among rookies. In fact, Tatum is the only other rookie in the top 15 in clutch field goals.
While Mitchell has been on fire recently, Tatum has performed well enough to this point where he is still in control of the number two spot among rookies. But the race for this second spot is close and will continue to be close throughout the season. The race for the number one spot on the other hand? Not so much.
It would make for a very boring race if Ben Simmons remained at the top of this list for the entire season. And it looks increasingly likely that that is going to be the case.
Try as they might, the other rookies just can’t hang with Simmons; none of them have the right combination of production and physicality to keep pace with the point-forward. Tatum has been better than advertised while Mitchell and Kuzma have exceeded all predraft expectations, but none of them can produce what Simmons has. With averages of 17.5 points, 8.9 rebounds and 7.7 assists per game, Simmons would be just the second rookie in NBA history, the first since Oscar Robertson during the 1960-61 season, to finish the season with that stat line.
So, unless they combine their powers to become a being with superhuman basketball skills, the other rookies don’t stand a chance against Simmons in the race for Rookie of the Year.
NBA Daily: Another 2018 NBA Mock Draft – 12/13/17
Basketball Insiders’ publisher Steve Kyler drops his latest 2018 first-round NBA Mock Draft.
A little less than a month ago we dropped the first 2018 NBA Mock Draft, which was met with a lot of disdain. Which is often a good thing because it sparks the discussion in NBA circles.
Since that Mock dropped, we’ve seen a bit more play out of some of the top prospects and many of the assumptions made almost a month ago are starting to settle into place a little more clearly.
The prevailing thought from NBA scouts and executives is that the possible 2018 NBA Draft class has a lot more questions than answers. The common view is that outside of the top 3 or 4 players there could be a very wide range on who the next 10-12 players will be; so expect for the second tier to evolve a lot over the course of the college basketball season.
A couple of things have started to surface among NBA scouts and executives, there seem to be three camps emerging around the top overall player – Duke’s Marvin Bagley III and international phenom Luka Dončić, seem to be the leading names mentioned most, with Arizona’s DeAndre Ayton making a strong push into the discussion. We can safely call this a three-horse race at this point.
The prevailing belief is that none of the three is far and away better than the other as a professional prospect, making it more likely than not that the top player selected will have a lot more to do with which team ultimately lands the pick, more so than the player themselves.
This class also seems to be brimming with promising athletic point guards, which unlike last year’s draft, could provide a lot of options for teams still trying to find that impact point guard.
There also looks to be 27 players in the projected top 100 that are 6’10 or bigger, eight of which project in the top 30. To put that into perspective, there were 11 players 6’10 or bigger drafted in the first round of the 2017 NBA Draft, and 17 total in the 60 2017 NBA Draft selections.
As we get into the 2018 calendar year, we’ll start to do deeper dives into the tiers of players and their possible NBA strengths and weakness.
So, with all of that in mind, here is the second 2018 first-round NBA Mock Draft.
Here are some of the pick swaps and how they landed where they are currently projected:
The Philadelphia 76ers are owed the LA Lakers 2018 Draft pick, unprotected, as a result of the 2012 Steve Nash trade with the Suns. The Suns traded that pick to the 76ers as part of the Michael Carter-Williams three-team trade with the Milwaukee in 2015.
The Cleveland Cavaliers are owed the Brooklyn Nets first-round pick as a result of the Kyrie Irving trade this past summer.
The Minnesota Timberwolves are owed the Oklahoma City Thunder’s first-round pick as part of the Ricky Rubio trade this summer. The pick is lottery protected and based on the current standings would not convey.
The Phoenix Suns are owed the Miami HEAT’s first-round pick as part of the Goran Dragic trade in 2015, it is top-seven protected and would convey to Phoenix based on the current standings.
The Atlanta Hawks are owed the Minnesota Timberwolves first round pick as part of the Adreian Payne trade in 2015. The pick is lottery protected and based on the current standings would convey.
The Phoenix Suns are owed the Milwaukee Bucks first-round pick as part of the Eric Bledsoe trade. The pick only conveys if the Bucks pick lands between the 11th and 16th pick, which based on the standings today would not convey.
The Brooklyn Nets are owed the Toronto Raptors first round pick as part of the DeMarre Carroll salary dump trade this past summer. The pick is lottery protected and based on the current standings would convey.
The Atlanta Hawks are owed the Houston Rockets first round pick as part of a three-team deal with the LA Clippers and Denver Nuggets involving Danilo Gallinari and taking back Jamal Crawford and Diamond Stone. The pick is top-three protected and based on the current standings would convey.
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