Happy 40th birthday Vince Carter! Yes that’s right, VC is 40 years old and still more athletic than 99% of the people who will read this post (including myself). At 40 years young, the ageless wonder is currently the oldest player in the NBA. What’s even more impressive is that he’s currently playing 24 minutes per game for a playoff bound team in the Western Conference.
Perhaps the most important reason to the longevity of Carter’s career has been his willingness to accept different roles throughout his NBA career. This is Carter’s 19th season in the NBA. Carter played almost exclusively as a starter in his first 14 years, averaging double digits in every single season. The next two seasons, Carter played exclusively off the bench, as he has every season since 2012-13, but still maintained double digit PPG numbers. Below are Carter’s career statistics (via basketball-reference).
Unfortunately, it seems that there are very few “superstars” willing to emerge as role players towards the end of their careers. This is why you don’t see many players playing till the age of 40 and being as successful as Vince Carter has been. For current superstars like Lebron James and Melo (if you really want to consider him a superstar), the end of their prime’s are quickly approaching and their games are going to have to dramatically change if they want to continue to be successful like Vince Carter.
For this blog post, I’m going to specifically focus on Melo, as he has been a topic of a lot of trade talk recently.
First and foremost, if Melo wants to ring chase, he should ring chase, but he can’t ring chase without waiving his no-trade clause, and it’s becoming extremely obvious that he’s not going to be able to win in New York.
One of Melo’s biggest issues is what seems to be his reluctance to play defense. This has always been a knock on Melo and as his career continues to progress, it will continue to be an area of high scrutiny.
If we look at some advanced defensive statistics, you can see that Melo’s defensive win shares (an estimate on the number of wins contributed by a player due to his defense) are currently worse than that of 40-year-old Vince Carter. (To add some context, Lebron’s DWS are currently 1.9.)
Another defensive statistic we can look at is the opponent’s offensive rating (an estimate of points scored per 100 possessions) when Carmelo is on the court versus when he is off the court this season.
What this chart shows, is that the Knicks’ opponents are almost 7 points better per 100 offensive possessions with Melo on the court than they are with Melo off the court.
Compared to Vince Carter’s… where the Grizzlies’ opponents are actually .5 points worse offensively with Vince Carter on the court.
While it is important to keep in mind that Melo does average about 10 more minutes per game than Vince Carter, all these stats are relevant to the future of Carmelo. It’s impossible to be a good role player if you cannot play defense especially as Carmelo’s offensive stats start to dwindle as he ages. While Vince Carter’s defensive statistics are impressive, if you are a fan of Carmelo or Phil Jackson, the President of the Knicks, you cannot be happy with these statistics. It’s not like Carmelo is expected to be a great defender, but being 7 points worse defensively with Carmelo on the court won’t cut it, especially when the Knicks are only 5.3 points better offensively with Carmelo on the court. With a player that plays as large of a role in the Knicks system as Carmelo, to be a successful team the Knicks offensive rating with Carmelo on the court vs. off the court has to be better than their defense rating.
A good role player, must understand his role and Vince Carter is the quintessential role player. Carmelo should take notes. Otherwise he’s a few years away from falling into the oblivion as a controversial scorer without a ring.
(All screenshots and statistics credited to basketball-reference, which by the way holds a large stake in the future of statistics. Their advanced statistics and breakdowns are great.)