As the Dallas Mavericks compete for one of the most competitive No. 8 seeds in NBA history, they’ve relied heavily on Vince Carter to provide veteran leadership and production to the team’s second lineup.
While he is the team’s sixth man by assignment, coach Rick Carlisle still considers him one of Dallas’ most important players. This is evident by Carter’s defined role in the final minutes of close games.
Carter is averaging nearly seven fourth-quarter minutes per game in 2013-2014, nearly two more minutes than he receives in any other quarter.
While his per game stats of 12.1 points, 3.6 rebounds and 2.7 assists indicate that Carter’s a shell of the All-Star he used to be, it’s misleading to think that Carter is fading. When extended out to 36 minutes, Carter’s 17.8 points, 5.3 rebounds, 3.9 assists show he’s still a versatile contributor.
Moreover, Carter’s playing like he embraces efficiency more than ever:
Over his last 20 games, Carter’s offensive rating has exceeded 110 points per 100 possessions.
This has done wonders for Dallas’ second unit. Reunited with former Nets teammate Devin Harris, the Mavericks’ bench has transformed from a weakness in recent years to a relative strength.
“As a whole, the five-man second unit of Devin Harris, Jae Crowder, Nowitzki, (Brandan) Wright, and Carter is scoring 117.4 points and allowing just 87.8 per 100 possessions this season, both elite marks. The unit’s 29.6 net rating — the difference between points scored and points allowed per 100 possessions — is 5th-best in the NBA since Jan. 18 among lineups with at least 50 minutes played. (Jan. 18 was Harris’s season debut.)” – Per Bobby Karalla of Mavs.com
As you can see, Carter has found his comfort zones on the court. When Carlisle puts Carter alongside Dirk Nowitzki and Jose Calderon in the rotation, Dallas’ perimeter threats open up driving lanes for Monta Ellis.
On to the rankings.
DROPOUTS: Jamal Crawford (5).
FIVE TO WATCH: Alec Burks, G, Utah; Patty Mills, G, San Antonio; J.R. Smith, G, New York; D.J. Augustin, G, Chicago; Nick Young, G, LA Lakers.
OTHER RANKINGS: Rookie | Most Improved | MVP | Power
Jacob Eisenberg is a student at Emory University, spending the spring semester abroad in Brazil, and covers the NBA for SheridanHoops.com. Check out his website and click here to follow him on Twitter.