Vince Carter's epic struggles

The Phoenix Suns knew what they were getting when Vince Carter came to the Valley of the Sun — a declining superstar whose production doesn’t match his star power. But for a short stretch of games, Carter gave Phoenix reason for hope.

He showed signs of life in the Big Apple, scoring 29 points and grabbing 12 rebounds for his first double-double since Feb. 2, 2010. For four straight games (Jan. 11-17) Carter averaged 21 points on 47.7 percent shooting, while drilling 56.0 percent of his triples.

It appeared he could be the go-to-guy the Suns so desperately needed as he helped propel the Suns to a five-game winning streak — their longest of the season. But since then, he’s been a disaster.

In the four games following the NYC outburst Carter is averaging a mere six points per game on 25 percent shooting from the field (10-for-40) and 23.5 percent from three (4-of-17).

Only seven of those 40 shots have come at the rim, according to, and Carter is no longer ripping the chords from behind the arc. He’s been so bad (scoring two points against the Sixers and three points agains the Cavaliers) that you have to wonder why he’s still a starter with a sizzling Jared Dudley behind him.

But the real question is: Why has Carter struggled so badly after showing promise?

Shot selection

Whether it’s fadeaway threes or off-balance jumpers in the lane, Carter’s always been criticized for his shot selection. He’s the ultimate plus-minus player that makes and misses shots he shouldn’t take. In Phoenix, there’s no such thing as a bad shot, but Carter’s quickly changed that.

He’s living on the perimeter far too often and is no longer penetrating the lane or taking advantage of mismatches on the block. Over the last four games Carter’s only attempted five shots inside of 10 feet after taking 14 inside of 10 feet in the four games prior.

Here the Suns would like to see Carter explode to the hoop, but instead he pulls up lazily for a mid-range jumper:

Carter’s had success posting up smaller players and drilling the turnaround fadeaway. But the shot below is ill-advised and not what the Suns want. When he catches the ball he has a lane to drive baseline, but decides to slow down, dribble into a double team and shoot an 18-foot fadeaway over Andre Iguodala.

Here Carter has a chance to use a Warrick pick and get something going to the basket. He backpedals to the three-point line, however, and jacks up a three that doesn’t drop.

Not the creator he’s made out to be

While it’s true that Carter is taking bad shots and living on the perimeter, the fact of the matter is, he isn’t as effective of an isolation player as people think. According to Synergy Sports Technology, Carter is scoring only 0.78 points per possession out of isolation plays.

He’s even worse facilitating the pick and roll, scoring an embarrassing 0.33 points per play. Carter runs the pick and roll 13.2 percent of the time but is shooting a lowly 20 percent out of the play that’s characterized the Suns over the last decade.

Of the 25 shots he’s taken as the pick and roll ball-handler, 18 have been jump shots (four three-pointers), which isn’t what you want to see from your two-guard who’s supposed to attack the rack. This possession is the epitome of why Carter isn’t effective in isolation situations.

Hakim Warrick sets a pick and Shawne Williams switches onto Carter with about 11 seconds left on the shot clock. Carter does the right thing by backing it out, and this is where he should get Williams on his heels and attack the rack.

But Carter dribbles around aimlessly and eventually jacks up an off-balance 27-footer that doesn’t draw iron. He played great in the Knicks game, but he simply isn’t the isolation player he’s cracked up to be.

Not getting to the free throw line

Carter’s shot only four free throws over the course of the last four games, after attempting 10 during the previous four games. He’s one of the only Phoenix players with the ability to create his own shot and needs to get to the line to be successful.

This goes hand in hand with shot selection. When he’s living on the perimeter jacking up threes, the Suns offense lacks balance and he disappears if he’s not connecting. Carter needs to stay engaged by attacking the hoop and most importantly getting to the charity stripe.

When he shows versatility offensively, the Suns are tough to beat. But when Carter gets lazy and becomes a spectator for 48 minutes, Phoenix struggles mightily. For Carter to return to the form he showed for four games he needs to take better shots and get back to the free-throw line, or it could be a long season.

Tags: Vince Carter

  • Sensei

    Cliff’s Notes Version: Carter Sucks.

    Welcome to the Paradox of Vince: he’d be such a great player – if he wasn’t Vince Carter.

  • kingkhan315

    his knees have been bugging him recently, give the guy a break…you fail to note that hes been playing less minutes as well…when your coach is asking for 15 plus shots a game and you only attempt 6 you know theres something wrong…stop hating

  • Mike Schmitz

    @kingkhan315: Bad knees or not, Carter was brought to Phoenix to produce and when he doesn’t he deserves criticism. If his knees are so bad he should take a seat because there are plenty of capable bodies behind him.

  • Auggie5000

    Thanks Mike! I wonder how many Suns personnel read your blog.

  • shazam

    this comment board is where all suns staff and players should get their instructions…we dont sugar coat it

  • Kevin

    Thanks Mike! Great piece! I think its time to unload VC or sit him. I know Childress and Pietrus can give better production and energy than what Carter has given us over the last several games.

  • 90wey78′pwerhty

    he was brought in just to fill seats knowing all along he was not going to help the team actually contend for a playoff spot. Much like the cardinals bringing in emmit smith…or even the suns keeping nash…none of these decisions involve a commetment to winning but simply to sell tickets and continue the business operation.

  • Mel.

    LOL. Anybody who suggests that keeping Nash is akin to a publicity stunt–and has nothing to do with “winning”–might want to actually take the time to watch a game, this season.

    We’re only winning BECAUSE of Nash. Argue all you want about the option of jettisoning him “before he loses value” (Like a collector’s plate or Star Wars action figure), but don’t get his production twisted with charity on the part of the franchise. Suggesting otherwise is as asinine as it is reactionary.

  • Steve

    Mike is right. If Carter’s knees are buggin him so bad that it makes him completely ineffective, then he should sit. He’s hurting the team and he’s hurting himself (less attractive to other teams, once his contract is up, he’s gonna get paid practically nothing if he’s lucky enough to get picked up by someone).

    At this point in their careers, Dudley, Childress, and Pietrus are all better than VC. Thoughts to the contrary are simply Vinsanity (couldn’t resist, sorry).

  • shawn

    I still have hope that we can make the playoffs. Portland has about 6 players that can actually walk so I don’t think they will be in our way much longer for the 8 spot.

  • shazam

    sinking ship trade trade trade…”crack cheek crack…blow wind blow..we wont be neptunes guest tonight.”

  • Chris

    The funny thing is people are whining that he should sit if his knees are bothering him that much, but if he did sit, these same idiots would be whining about him “faking injuries”, blah blah blah.

    And no, Pietrus isn’t any better than Carter. He attacks the rim even less. There’s a reason he’s not playing at all.

  • Jimmy

    Vince is terrible. Period.