The unlikely Renaissance of Anthony Carter

Anthony Carter the undrafted. Anthony Carter the forgotten veteran. Anthony Carter the placeholder. Anthony Carter the game-changer?

NEW ORLEANS - DECEMBER 18:  Anthony Carter #25...
Image by Getty Images via Daylife

All of the above statements are true.  And although the first three may sound like negatives, they are simply characteristics of a key role-player in this Nuggets organization.  (We’ll get to the fourth one later.)

AC was undrafted out of Hawaii, initially playing with the Minor League Sun Kings before signing with the Heat.  He has played ten years in the NBA at Miami, San Antonio, Minnesota & Denver… and he has never once averaged more than 30 minutes a game.

That means he has always been a depth guy, a bench player.  And not the fancy “sixth man” type of bench player either.  Carter has only averaged more than 6.5 points once in that span; during his 2007-2008 season with Denver.

That ’07-’08 season is worth noting, because it was the only season that Anthony Carter was a consistent starter.

He marched out for the opening tip-off in 67 of his 70 games that season, and still only averaged 28 minutes per.  It was his best statistical season by far in almost every major category.  In ten seasons, that single campaign stands out as Carter’s opus.

And don’t think I’m being facetious here.  A slow, undrafted guard with terrible range starting alongside Carmelo Anthony, Marcus Camby & Kenyon Martin is a sight to behold.  Carter even improved to 35% from beyond the arc.  (Compared to his career average of 25%.)  Not bad for a role-player.

And boy does George Karl love his role players, especially at the Point Guard position.

George loved Earl Boykins, the very undersized PG who won the hearts of Nuggets fans as the little guard that could (hit 90% of his free throws.)  And Karl loves Anthony Carter for the same reasons: fundamentals & work ethic.  That alone justifies Carter’s tenure here in Denver, and for the last three seasons I assumed that his workmanlike resolve was the only thing keeping Anthony in uniform, much less on the court.

In fact, I’ve been talking trash about Carter (most especially his awkward attempts at threes) ever since he came to the Nuggets.  My Nugget buddies and I had been waiting for the blessed moment when Anthony Carter would be relegated to towel duty.  He just seemed like such a schmuck out there with all those stars.  Then tragedy struck…

Rookie phenom Ty Lawson, the heir-apparent to Chauncey Billups, went down with a shoulder injury.  Lawson had usurped Carter’s backup role in mid-January, playing very effectively with the energetic second unit.  A left shoulder contusion took him out of a key game against the Lakers, which was an especially shameful shame considering Lawson has earned the title “Laker Bane” in his short time with the Nuggets.

But in those dark days after our own little Weapon X went down, I saw something different in the play of AC.  Old Mr. Carter started playing like a less talented Chauncey Billups, and the Nuggets started plowing through lesser opponents.

Nothing tells the story of a player better than plus/minus (the difference in scoring while that player is on the court).  In the eight games since Lawson got hurt, Anthony Carter went +7, +9, -1, +14, -5, +12, +8 & +7.  Seven of those eight games were wins.

Carter is also averaging 6 assists per game over that span, quite a feat for a guy playing around 18 minutes each night.  For some perspective, Chauncey Billups is averaging 4.0 assists per game playing 30-40 minutes.

Better yet, Carter has gone out in tight situations in the 3rd & 4th Quarters and sparked big-time, game-changing scoring sprees with his team behind on the scoreboard.  He has played stellar defense against some very talented guards, and his three-point shooting just hit 30% accuracy for the month of March.  Anthony is stretching defenses (a little), penetrating the lane (mostly with accurate passes), and changing the course of NBA basketball games.

Unexpected as it may be, Anthony Carter is enjoying a sort of Renaissance… the sort of Renaissance a career backup has when his team really, really needs him.  He even added some extra ink in the past few years to match the tattoo flavor of the neo-Nuggets. What more can you ask for from a teammate?

AC may be relegated to the bench again when the super-speedy Ty Lawson returns in a few games.  But for two weeks in March of 2010, with injuries ravaging the depths of this Denver team, Anthony Carter elevated his game.  What a great guy to have on a basketball team.

Try these ones on…

Anthony Carter the dedicated.  Anthony Carter the consistent.  Anthony Carter the valued.

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