A reunion between Vince Carter and the Toronto Raptors could benefit both sides. Carter would shore up the team’s bench, while also bringing one of the most beloved players in franchise history home.
Vince Carter is the most important player in the history of the Toronto Raptors. He was selected fifth overall in the 1998 NBA Draft by the Golden State Warriors. Carter was immediately traded to the Raptors in exchange for Antawn Jamison.
Carter would go on to be named the 1999 NBA Rookie of the Year. However, it was the Slam Dunk Contest during the 2000 All-Star Weekend that solidified him as a star. His legend continued to grow during the 2000 Summer Olympics. Carter jumped over 7-foot-2 Frenchman Frederic Weis, effectively ending Weis’ basketball career.
During the 2000-01 Season, Carter was fifth in the league in scoring, averaging 27.6 points per game. He led the Raptors to a then franchise-best 47 wins. Carter was named to the All-NBA Second Team. The Raptors reached the second round of the playoffs, losing the Philadelphia 76ers in seven games.
On August 1, 2001, Carter signed a six-year, $94 million contract with the Raptors. Over the next few seasons, Carter would struggle with injuries and ultimately force his way out of Toronto.
On December 18, 2004, Carter was traded to the New Jersey Nets in exchange for Alonzo Mourning, Eric Williams, Aaron Williams, and two first-round picks. Mourning refused to report to the Raptors. Carter experienced moderate success with the Nets, before being traded to the Orlando Magic in 2009.
In the early 2000s, there was a debate as to who was better, Kobe Bryant or Carter. Everyone knows how that story played out. Bryant is a five-time champion and one of the best to ever lace them up.
Carter has had a solid career, playing 21 seasons in the NBA. However, a Carter-led team has only made it past the second round of the playoffs once. Since leaving Toronto, Carter has played for seven teams, including the Nets, Magic, Phoenix Suns, Dallas Mavericks, Memphis Grizzlies, Sacramento Kings and now the Atlanta Hawks.
Carter is the oldest player currently in the NBA at 41 years old (he will be 42 on January 26th). He has played almost 48,000 career minutes, including the playoffs. Carter is the 22nd leading scorer in NBA history with over 25,000 career points. However, despite his age, Carter is still capable of contributing on the court.
During the twilight of his career, Carter has prioritized playing time over ring chasing. Over the last few seasons, Carter has signed with young teams, where he has been asked to serve as a mentor.
Last season there was speculation that Carter might return to the Raptors. During the premiere of “The Carter Effect” at the Toronto International Film Festival, Masai Ujiri said that “one way or another Vince will be home in Toronto”. Carter ended up signing a one-year, $8 million contract with the Sacramento Kings.
Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun reported that Ujiri was eager to add Carter at the veteran minimum, but there was no way Carter was going to turn down the Kings’ offer.
This past summer, Carter was yet again a free agent. However, given his desire to play meaningful minutes, there was no room on the Raptors to accommodate him. The team was loaded with wing players after acquiring Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green from the San Antonio Spurs. Carter went on to sign a one-year deal with the Hawks.
As the calendar is set to switch over to 2019, the time might be right to bring Carter back to the city that made him a star. The Hawks are one of the worst teams in the NBA with a 9-24 record. The Raptors meanwhile could use some more help on the perimeter.
The Raptors have one of the deepest rosters in the entire Association, but the team could use a couple minor tweaks.
Fans clamoring for Ujiri to make a big splash are likely to be disappointed. The Raptors don’t have the assets to chase Anthony Davis or Bradley Beal. Teams are preserving cap space for next summer and don’t want to take on long-term contracts. This year’s trade deadline is expected to be quiet. Playoff teams may make a few small moves, but that is about it.
The Raptors could use an additional wing player off the bench. Last year, the Raptors had one of the best benches in the NBA. That isn’t the case this season. Pascal Siakam has moved into the starting lineup and the bench is struggling to generate offense.
C.J. Miles is averaging 5.0 points per game while shooting 28.4 percent from long distance. Norman Powell just returned from a shoulder injury. And the Raptors declined the fourth-year option for Malachi Richardson, signaling that his time in Toronto is coming to an end.
A trade of Carter for Richardson straight-up works financially. It also makes sense for both teams. The Hawks are rebuilding and don’t need Carter for the second half of the season. They don’t take on any long-term salary. Also, it has become common practice for young teams to facilitate a move allowing veteran players to catch on with a playoff team.
For the Raptors, Carter would provide a solid contributor, with playoff experience. Carter would take Miles’ spot in the rotation and provide some scoring off the bench. On the season, Carter is averaging 7.2 points per game, while shooting 36.4 percent from downtown.
Recently, Carter has turned back the clock. On December 23rd against the Detroit Pistons, Carter scored 18 points, along with 7 rebounds and two assists, while adding three 3s. Carter has scored in double digits 12 times this season. He also threw down a 360-degree dunk during warm-ups earlier this year.
While there is no doubt that Carter could help the Raptors. The move also makes sense for Carter as a player. He joins a winning team, with championship aspirations. And given the struggles of the Raptors’ bench, Carter would be given the opportunity to play and potentially earn a championship ring.
In addition to his contributions on the court, a reunion would provide a form of catharsis for Carter and fans alike. For years after Carter left, he was booed relentlessly anytime he returned to Toronto. The boos have disappeared and Carter has been credited with inspiring a generation of basketball players. Players like Andrew Wiggins, Cory Joseph, and Tristan Thompson all point to Carter’s influence.
Bringing Carter back to the place where it all started is something both sides have wanted for some time now. Carter may not be the same player that fans remember. Air Canada and Vinsanity are gone, but Carter still has enough left in the tank to help this team compete.
Stats were provided by ESPN.com and Basketball-Reference.com