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Vince Carter’s Disappointing Season


Vince Carter was just named Howard the Dunk’s biggest disappointment for the Magic so far in the 2009-10 season.

No one was expecting Carter to be the same kind of player he was in his prime when he routinely averaged around 25 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists per game, but it was fair to expect Carter to be the same kind of player that he was last season when he played 36.8 minutes per game over 80 games, scored 20.8 points per game on 43.7% shooting (38.5% from downtown), grabbed 5.1 rebounds per game and dished out 4.1 assists per game.

This season, Carter is averaging career-lows in scoring (16.8 per game), shooting percentage (38.6%), assists (3.0 per game), steals (.8 per game), blocks (.4 per game) and minutes played (30.6 per game).

Carter’s PER has also fallen from 19.3 last season to a career-low of 15.9.

Carter has obviously been bothered by injuries. He sprained his ankle against the New Jersey Nets in the second game of the season (a game in which he was playing the best he has all season – 16 points on 6-of-8 shooting and four assists in 15 minutes). That injury forced him to miss four of the next five games. Carter also suffered a shoulder injury during Orlando’s loss to Washington on January 8. He missed the next three games and has played just 22 and 29 minutes in two games since he returned and has looked to be in physical pain, grasping his shoulder in each of those games.

Many claim that the Magic were asking for injury trouble when they acquired Carter because Carter is injury prone, but that simply is not true. Carter has not missed more than nine games in a season since the 2002-2003 season. Carter has already missed seven games at the halfway point this season and that is obviously not the norm for him.

One of the biggest problems Carter has had is that he has not been attacking the basket nearly enough. Carter seems content to just sit back and behind the three-point line and launch jumpers. 163 of Carter’s 505 shots have been three-point attempts. That’s 32.3% of all his shots, meaning that Carter shoots 30.7% on one-third of his shots.

Carter’s not getting to the line nearly enough fouls mostly due to the fact that he has not been driving as often. Just a season ago, Carter was drawing fouls 10.4% of the time, this year the number has dropped to 8.1%. When Carter does get fouled, he is shooting well from the line. In fact, his free throw percentage of 86.8% is the highest of his career, but his 4.5 attempts per game from the line is the lowest.

When Carter does get to the hoop, he doesn’t seem to have the same explosiveness. Obviously, the 33-year old Carter is not going to look like the Carter that won the slam dunk contest back in 2000, but Carter does not even have the explosiveness that he had last season. He’s had a lot of trouble finishing around the rim. Last year, dunks made up 3% of all of Carter’s field goals and he was nearly perfect on them (97.9%). This season, dunks make up just 2% of his field goals and he has shot just 81.8% on them.

Perhaps Carter’s age has finally caught up with him? If so, it couldn’t have come at a worse time for the Magic.

Last season, Carter was letting his teammates set him up. 41% of his field goals were assisted. This season, that percentage has fallen to 34%. Carter has been getting the ball on the perimeter and has been settling for too many tough, contested shots.

Carter has also failed to get his teammates involved. Carter has averaged 4.2 assists per game over his career and dished out 4.7 per game last season. His assist percentage is 17.6%, the lowest it has been since his rookie season. Last year, it was 23.7% and in the two seasons prior to that, it was over 25%.

To make matters worse, even with Carter’s struggles, his usage rate of 27.7% is the highest it has been since the 2006-2007 season.

If the Magic expect to be a championship level team, they need Carter to be more of a playmaker and to stop settling for difficult jumpers. This Magic will not be able to compete with the elite teams in the league without Carter playing at a high level.

Carter and the Magic have preached patience but Magic fans patience may be wearing thin.

(Andrew Melnick is Howard the Dunk’s lead blogger and a contributor at NFL Mocks Subscribe to his RSS feed and add him on Twitter to follow him daily.)