Vince Carter has earned eight All-Star appearances, the Rookie of the Year award and an Olympic gold medal during a career that has made a strong case for the Hall of Fame.
Carter’s boss would like to nominate him for another honor.
“If we had a better record, he'd be a Sixth Man of the Year candidate, if not the leading candidate,” Mark Cuban said recently. “He's basically been our best player.”
This is the first time in Carter’s 15-year career that he’s been featured in a reserve role, although he came off the bench occasionally last season. Carter has embraced being a sixth man, a role that makes it easier for coach Rick Carlisle to manage the 36-year-old’s minutes but puts Carter in position to make a major impact.
“I told coach from the beginning of the year that I was willing to do whatever and take on any role,” said Carter, who knew the Mavs would need scoring off the bench when former Sixth Man of the Year Jason Terry left for Boston. “Obviously, I’m definitely comfortable in this role. It’s a comfortable role because it’s who I am. I like to make plays and put the ball in the basket and find open guys.”
Carter, who has moved past Hal Greer, Larry Bird and Gary Payton this season to climb to 28th on the NBA’s all-time scoring list, can still fill it up. He’s averaging 13.1 points in 25.3 minutes per game. The Mavs are 7-2 when Carter scores at least 20 points, including his 22-point outing in Sunday’s win over the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Carter is also arguably the most complete player among the Sixth Man of the Year candidates. He’s a smart, unselfish facilitator (2.1 assists per game), solid rebounder (4.0 per game) and an extremely underrated defender. (The Mavs allow 7.5 fewer points per 100 possessions with Carter on the floor than when he sits, according to 82games.com.)
The Mavs’ 29-33 record isn’t a reflection of Carter’s performance. In fact, his plus-minus of plus-151 ranks as the best on the team by 100 points.
Alas, there are too many quality sixth men from contenders for Carter to get serious consideration for the award. The Clippers’ Jamal Crawford, who leads bench players with 17.2 points per game, is considered the favorite in a field that also features the Knicks’ J.R. Smith, Thunder’s Kevin Martin, Warriors’ Jarrett Jack, Jazz’s Gordon Hayward and Spurs’ Manu Ginobili. Add the Hornets’ Ryan Anderson if you want to include a sixth man putting up stellar numbers on a losing squad.
Carter will be an afterthought in the Sixth Man of the Year voting. However, his professionalism and production are greatly appreciated by the Mavs, beginning with the man who signs the checks.