Vince Carter's Field Goal Percentage: Trend or Mirage?

Many, including me, expected Vince Carter to shoot a great percentage from the field this season because he was finally playing with a strong inside presence and other shooters that would prevent defenses from focusing on him.  Instead, Carter entered Monday night's game shooting by-far a career low of 38.9% from the field, and on Monday he lowered that percentage by shooting 3-for-10 against the Lakers.  Is this terrible shooting all that we can expect from Carter, or will he turn it around?

Like I did with Dwyane Wade last week, I went back through Carter's shooting trends for the last several years.  I looked at where he was shooting from, what kinds of percentages he was shooting, and how often his shots were assisted.  This is what the raw numbers looked like:

  % jumpers            EFG      Assisted      %inside            EFG     Assisted           FG %          EFG%
2009-10 75 43.6 38 25 45 24 38.9 43.9
2008-09 75 47.2 48 25 55.8 26 43.7 49.3
2007-08 67 46.2 54 33 55.9 48 45.6 49.4
2006-07 66 46.4 59 34 58 45 45.4 50.3
2005-06 67 43 55 33 55.6 43 43 47.2
2004-05 70 47.6 63 30 57.8 47 46.2 50.6
2003-04 78 41.5 52 22 57.9 32 41.9 45.2

Two things jump out at me.  First, Carter is no longer getting set up by his teammates.  From 03-04 in Toronto up through 2008 when the Jason Kidd years ended in New Jersey, Carter took the majority of his jumpers off of assists.  Even next to Devin Harris last year, 48 of his jumpers were assisted.  This year in Orlando, only 38% of his jumpers are assisted.  This means that he is doing more dribbling around trying to create shots instead of taking set jumpers, which does not appear to be his forte as he is shooting one of the lowest percentages of his career in jumpers.

The second thing that catches my eye is that Carter is shooting by-far the worst percentage of the last seven years on inside shots.  While he generally shoots in the 55 - 60% range inside, this year he is shooting only 45% inside.  Some of that could have also come from the fact that he is creating his own shot (only 24% assisted) instead of getting set up by Jason Kidd, but even last season once Kidd was gone when Carter didn't get many assists on inside shots he still hit 56% from there.

The real bad news for Carter owners, though, is that these two negatives seem inherent to the system that he plays for and possibly age/physical deterioration.  Carter is essentially taking Hedo Turkoglu's role on the Magic, but Turkoglu thrived as the point-forward that could create for others more than himself.  Carter, on the other hand, is a scorer who is more comfortable being set up by others.  Having to create for both himself and others seems to be hurting Carter's percentages, but unless Jameer Nelson suddenly takes a much larger part in running the offense it doesn't look like Carter's role will change.

Likewise, Carter's troubles scoring at the rim would seem to indicate that he is not as explosive as he once was in the paint.  Carter has been battling nagging ankle and shoulder injuries for awhile now, and he turns 33 years old next week which doesn't bode well for a swingman that relies upon his athleticism.

Thus, it seems to me that Carter's poor shooting this year is likely to be a TREND.  Carter's career-low field goal percentage is 41.7%, and the way things stand now I think that Carter sets a new career-low this season.


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