Where Damon Stoudamire gets his pot.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Will Vince Carter Make the Hall of Fame?

The title gets a 2nd place award - behind some post I made about liking Ricky Davis - for the most direct title of this blog's short history.

So with that in mind, does Carter make the Hall of Fame after he unlaces his sneakers for the final time? In a pragmatic way I'll try to break down his chances, with a number of categories: Statistics, Best String of Years, Signature Team, Team Accomplishments, All-Star teams, and Other Appeal. If that's not an airtight way of assessing his chances, I don't know what is.

In lieu of the fact that the categories are self-explanatory - a couple minutes earlier I actually thought they needed explanation - I'll begin by stating that Toronto Raptors fans, myself included, have this morbid fascination with anything Carter-related. It's pathetic. When Vince does something awful or spectacular during the game, a flood of interest and emotion flare up in Toronto and across Canada. Vince Carter could walk out on a bill in a New Jersey steakhouse and I'd be fascinated.

Statistics. They've reacted well this season with the addition of Devin Harris, but after this season he'll fall off and keep up appearances for a reasonable amount of time before suffering a life threatening injury, let's say, four or five years from now.
If we evaluate his early career, there are four, maybe five solid years of basketball when Carter averaged mid-to-high 20s in ppg, over 5 boards per game, and even three seasons over 40% from the 3-point line.
Yet his stats don't really wow you. Whenever a player makes the Hall, two stats appear over-and-over on the sports broadcast byline: Stats and All-Star game appearances. Carter's statistics don't fare too well when you compare him to two other guys from the very early post-Jordan NBA: Tracy McGrady and Allen Iverson. For Carter's stats to shine during his reign of a very hungover, misaligned NBA, he needed to be better than these guys, and McGrady is very borderline as a HOF candidate.
He needed a couple seasons where he cracked 30 ppg.

Best String of Years. Definitely the three seasons with the Raptors, his second and fourth, from 1999 to 2002. After that his career slid big time. The injuries piled up, Raptor nation turned on him, he turned on Toronto, and when he was healthy he wasn't the same explosive guy. Still a good player, but not the same.
After this he had a one-off shorter year with the Nets when he cracked 27 ppg for the first time.
In short, not a great string of years for Vince.

Signature Team. This one is a killer for Carter. Most great players are identified with one franchise and synonymous with that city's sports history. Do you envision Carter as a Raptor? Well, not really. He turned on his team when times got tough and revealed his true character. What about as a New Jersey Net? Um, not much better. They made the post-season with Carter on numerous occasions - even advanced beyond the first round - but the fact remains that New Jersey has been a terrible place for basketball for so long. And it looks like they could be leaving. New Jersey has a very underwhelming history that looks to get worse.

Team Accomplishments. This will be brief: Carter never was a number-one player and option. He could've been a great second banana - this banana term is really catching on, I hope - but inexplicably another good player wasn't put ahead of him in the team's pecking order, probably because Richard Jefferson and Jason Kidd weren't quite good enough to fill the role. Carter had the responsibility of heading-up that threesome and it squandered his best opportunity to win big at the playoff level.

All-Stars. The other stat in the byline. This could help Carter. Eight All-Star selections, many of them voted in as a starter. Ten's a nice round number but I don't think he gets it.

Other Appeal. Another category that helps Carter a ton in the HOF debate. His dunking ability was a little bit of a precursor - during those opening stages to the post-Jordan culture - to the hyperathleticism we see from Josh Smith, Dwight Howard, and Amare Stoudamire. He might even go down as the top dunker of all time.

Final Verdict. Unless Carter has a late career renaissance as the second-option behind Lebron James in Cleveland en route to five championships, he isn't getting in. And I think Carter's the type of person who - when he fails to get in - will probably sulk about it for a while and believe that he's worthy. But it doesn't look like he is, according to my pragmatic and heavily flawed system of evaluation.

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