Jason Richardson did more than his part during 25 games as Phoenix’s go-to-guy. J-Rich led the Suns in scoring (19.3 points) and three-point production (2.5 per game at a 41.9 percent clip), while dropping 35-plus three times on the season.
So Suns fans should worry about replacing Richardson’s scoring after Babby and Blanks dealt him to Orlando, right?
J-Rich showcased a smooth stroke and the bunnies that earned him his rep in the NBA, but more than anything he benefitted from what most shooters and dunkers benefit from when coming to Phoenix — Steve Nash and the NBA’s top offense.
In the two of the 25 games that Nash didn’t play, Richardson went a combined 6-for-18 and 1-for-7 from three. But with Nash as the floor general, J-Rich was spoon-fed uncontested threes and alley-oop dunks.
So why can’t Carter do the same?
There’s no question that Richardson and Carter aren’t the same player — J-Rich is four years younger, has a quicker release, and doesn’t need the ball in his hands as often to be effective.
But although Carter offers a slightly different skill-set, he’s capable of what Richardson did in the Suns’ offense, and then some. He isn’t going to throw down between-the-legs dunks or unleash the Vinsanity, but he’ll thrive catching backdoor alley-oops from Nash.
Some fear that this is going to end up being another Hedo/Nash divorce, as Carter demands the ball to be successful. But Carter’s usage rate (23.55) is actually lower than Richardson’s (24.89) so far this season, according to Hoopdata.com.
He’s boasted a usage rating around that number since 2008, so he’s clearly learned how to thrive without the ball in his hands. Carter’s also proven he can splash the three-ball. It’s hard to dispute that he settles for too many jumpers, but five of his 12.1 shots per game come from within 10 feet.
In comparison, 6.8 out of Richardson’s 15.6 shots per game come from inside 10 feet. So if you do the math, 41.3 of Carter’s shots come inside of 10 feet, while 43.5 percent of J-Rich’s come from that distance. In reality, Carter doesn’t settle any more than Richardson, he just played in a system in Orlando that isn’t as prone to drive and kicks for open threes.
One category where J-Rich does trump Carter is beyond the arc, but even that can be justified. J-Rich only shot over 40 percent from three once in his seven seasons prior to joining Nash and the Suns.
Who’s to say Carter can’t also dial it up thanks to Nash’s penetration? Carter did shoot 42.5 percent from distance the last time he joined forces with a pass-first point guard about midseason, when he played 52 games with Jason Kidd and the Nets during the 2004-05 season.
Overall, Carter had his best years with Kidd, averaging 27.2 points, 24.2 points and 25.2 points in three seasons with the former Sun. Carter is almost 34 years old, and he’s seen as a chemistry killer and a volume chucker. But, like Richardson, Carter has the perfect skills to develop into a great running mate with Nash. And unlike J-Rich, Carter can handle the ball and create for himself or his teammates.
The biggest question is his motivation and willingness to play team basketball, which can’t be explained with stats and talent. But based on skill-set and ability alone, Carter can be just as good, if not better, than J-Rich in the Suns’ system.
Here’s some video showing why:
Carter has never been known as a knockdown three-point shooter. He’s drilled a modest 34.6 percent of his triples this season, but that should increase with Nash in town. All Carter has to do is find some space, spot up and he’ll find open three after open three. Here he shows he has the stroke to knock it down:
Hitting the spot-up three is one thing that’s a must when playing with Nash, the other is drilling the transition three. Carter can get out into the open court and get to the hoop, but here he shows he’s capable of nailing an occasional transition three, which come in bunches in Phoenix.
Carter’s knees are wearing down (he only has 10 dunks on the season), but he still has the athleticism to get up and down and do some damage in transition. Especially when teamed up with Phoenix’s top-notch training staff, Carter could be filling the lanes like 38-year-old Hill in no time.
With Orlando, however, Carter was the one forcing things in transition rather than the one filling the lanes. Assuming he’s capable of running next to Nash (and that’s a very easy assumption), this adds another dimension to the Suns in someone who can create for himself in the open court.
Here’s a clip of Carter running a secondary break of sorts, taking the feed from Jameer Nelson and finishing in traffic:
Here Carter takes it coast-to-coast himself and earns a ticket to the line:
Run him off of screens
As I showed earlier in the season, the Suns loved to run J-Rich off screens to spring him for open jumpers. Carter’s release isn’t quite quick enough to be as effective in that regard, but he does a great job maneuvering his body to get shots off so it’s not out of the question.
The Suns can also run similar plays that bring Carter all the way to the hoop, where he’s finishing at a career-high 64.5 percent clip this season. Here’s an example of one of those plays:
One thing Carter can do that Richardson can’t is create for himself. J-Rich was never a guy you wanted with the ball in his hands and the shot clock running down, as you can see in the possession below:
But Carter is a good isolation player who’s comfortable in that role. Turkoglu was thought to be successful as a secondary distributor, but Nash dominated the ball too much. Carter is a different player, however, as he can actually get to the hoop quickly, rather than dance around and settle for a fadeaway. It’s also a lot easier to be a playmaker at the shooting guard position than the power forward spot.
Here Carter drives against two defenders for a layup at the end of the third quarter:
Carter can also get it done out of the post. He’s not a banger, but his fadeaway jumper is better than J-Rich’s, adding another option to the Suns’ offense. Here are two examples of Carter’s low-post game: