Vince Carter used to leap the tallest centers in a single bound and dunk on their heads. Those days are long gone except for the occasional rev-up Carter can still breathtakingly pull off in any given game.
"I’m not really into trying to jump over people anymore," Carter said in December shortly after joining the Mavericks. "Over the years, with experience, you don’t really realize the risk of doing some of that stuff, and it takes a toll on your body so I save it for special moments, whenever that is. I can still do it. I think now, particularly some of the young guys in here now, they feel like, ‘Hey, I’ve got to get there first, I don’t want to be on the poster of an old guy.’ I get that, so now I just figure, when you get there, two points is two points."
Carter, set to enter his 15th season, is indeed the old guy. He's 35 and turns 36 in January. With 39-year-old Jason Kidd moving to New York, Carter takes over as the Mavs' eldest statesman. Jason Terry's exit elevated Shawn Marion and Dirk Nowitzki to next in line, both having turned 34 a few months ago.
Whatever you think of Carter at this stage of his career, the stats, according to 82games.com, show that the Mavs were a better team offensively and defensively with Carter on the floor.
The Dallas Mavericks opted to fully guarantee Carter's $3.1 million salary for next season at the deadline, just hours before the start of the free agency period. After Deron Williams committed to the Nets, Dallas acquired point guard Darren Collison and shooting guards O.J. Mayo, a lock to start, and defensive-minded Dahntay Jones, and re-signed Delonte West. Combo guards Rodrigue Beaubois, Dominique Jones and draft pick Jared Cunningham cram both guard spots. Including Carter, eight of Dallas' 15 roster players are guards, suggesting Carter is likely to play much more small forward next season.
According to 82games.com, Carter ended up playing more at small forward last season and essentially was equally effective at either wing spot. The difference is that early last season when he played more at the 2, the savvy Carter took advantage of posting up smaller shooting guards. As as the season wore on he became more of a spot-up shooter.
But he shot just 41.1 percent from the floor -- his lowest percentage since 2004-05 -- and below 40 percent from 3 feet from the bucket out to the arc. His 3-point percentage, a respectable 36.1 percent, dropped off significantly in the second half of the season and he was just 3-of-10 from beyond the arc in the four playoff games against Oklahoma City, slightly better than his perplexing overall shooting percentage in the series (29.3).
As Carter has acknowledged, his game has changed with age. He ranked 122nd in the league last season in dunks. As his drives have diminished so have his trips to the free throw line. He took just 115 last year, an average of 1.8 a game. In 2005-06, Carter took 601 free throws, 7.6 a game. By 2009-10, his attempts dipped to 306, 4.1 a game.
Carter averaged a career-low 25.3 minutes last season. With the current roster, that number can probably drop further, which could serve to maximize his still valuable assets.