There are two people who are part of the Denver Nuggets that some fans just love to hate. One is George Karl. Even if Karl were to lead the Nuggets to the next five championships would have some fans complaining about him and proclaiming that Denver made it that far despite him. The other is Anthony Carter.
The strange thing is Carter is the kind of player every team needs. Someone who is completely unselfish and does his best trying to do what the coach asks of him. So why are so many of us, myself included, so hard on him?
Maybe a more important question is what should we expect from a backup point guard? What does that job description look like? I believe a backup point guard needs to be able to run the offense, take care of the ball, play defense and hit open shots.
Did Anthony Carter run the offense? He absolutely did. He was the point guard in charge of pushing the pace and he did a good job of it. When the second unit was running Carter could compile assists as quickly as anyone. He may not have been a coach on the floor like Chauncey Billups is, but he was not afraid to run something and get his teammates organized.
Did AC take care of the ball? That is not an easy question to answer. If you look at his overall performance, I think you have to say that he took care of the ball almost as well as any of his reserve counterparts did. One of my main criticisms of Carter’s play during the season was that he did not take care of the ball. Carter definitely had some poor outings. He had a seven turnover game and a six turnover game. That is not acceptable. In the month of February he averaged 2.5 turnovers a game in less than 25 minutes a night. That was not acceptable either. However, he realized it was a problem and over the last three months of the season was able to turn things around. In the month of March he only turned the ball over 1.3 times a game and in the playoffs, when possessions are most precious, he was even better as he dropped his turnovers down to an amazing 0.7 per game.
Carter posted an assist to turnover ratio of 2.3. To put that in perspective Chauncey had a turnover to assist ratio of 2.8 last season. The only back up point guards in the NBA who had a better assist to turnover ratio were Ramon Sessions (3.0), Keyon Dooling (2.6), J.J. Barea (2.6), Delonte West (2.5) and Sergio Rodiguez (2.4). Carter had a better assist to turnover ratio than Kirk Hinrich (2.26), T.J. Ford (2.2), Bobby Jackson (2.2), Jordan Farmar (1.8) and Ronnie Price (1.8).
Ultimately, as a backup point guard, Carter does take care of the ball. Does he make some absolutely terrible looking turnovers? Sure, he does, but also keep in mind his job is to push the pace and apply pressure on the defense. Turnovers come with the territory.
Carter is also a good defensive guard. Look no further than the job he did on Dwyane Wade in Miami this season. It did not matter who George Karl asked him to cover, Carter would go after him as well as he could (it was not Carter’s fault he was sent out there to cover Kobe Bryant). Carter also did a very good job in the playoffs on Jason Terry. On the other hand, I believe we did see some slippage from Carter on defense last season. There were some nights where he was wildly ineffective. Needless to say I am concerned about what will happen now that he is 34.
Even the most ardent Carter supporter cannot argue against the verdict in the final category. Carter is not a good shooter. Carter made only 23.9% of his three point attempts in the regular season and that fell even further in the playoffs where he made only two of his 12 three point heaves for a startlingly bad 16.7%. His effective field goal percentage on jump shots was 40.8%. For comparison Nene’s shot 43.8% on jumpers.
So I ask again, why do so many Nuggets fans love to hate Anthony Carter? Maybe it is because he reminds us all a little too much of ourselves. We watch the NBA to see world class athletes do things that we could never dream of doing. When we see Carter, he rarely does anything fancy and he always seems to be a heartbeat away from getting embarrassed. Maybe watching him play is a little too personal for many of us.
Not only does Carter get the job done, but his real value is that he is a real value. It is amazing that Carter does what he does for the league minimum. That makes Carter almost invaluable for a team that has very little wiggle room when it comes to finances.
With the presence of Ty Lawson next season Carter’s place on the Nuggets roster could be in jeopardy. I thought there was a very telling quote, which I cannot seem to find, where Chauncey said that with Lawson on board maybe he can play fewer minutes. That was a pretty big condemnation of Carter. Even though Carter played well over 20 minutes a game Chauncey had to be on the floor for over 35 minutes a night. I think both Chauncey and the Nuggets would love to get that average down to the low 30s next season and Anthony Carter is not the player who can accomplish that.
However, the primary area of concern with Lawson is his defense. If he cannot get the job done on the defensive end the Nuggets are going to have to have another option. Even coming off a season where he was the starting point guard for a 50 win team after the 2007-08 season Carter’s only good option was to sign a one year deal with Denver. I doubt Carter is going to have any better option than Denver again this offseason. If the Nuggets want Carter, they can have him and they will be able to bring him on board for a minimum salary one year contract.
Until we see what Ty Lawson can do, I think it is a no brainer that the Nuggets bring Carter back for next season and there are few players that bring as much value as Carter.