Dallas Mavericks: Ryan Anderson


Vince Carter has earned eight All-Star appearances, the Rookie of the Year award and an Olympic gold medal during a career that has made a strong case for the Hall of Fame.

Carter’s boss would like to nominate him for another honor.

[+] EnlargeCarter
AP Photo/Duane BurlesonVince Carter's complete all-around game probably won't net much love from voters for the Sixth Man of the Year, but he's getting plenty from Mark Cuban. "He's basically been our best player."
“If we had a better record, he'd be a Sixth Man of the Year candidate, if not the leading candidate,” Mark Cuban said recently. “He's basically been our best player.”

This is the first time in Carter’s 15-year career that he’s been featured in a reserve role, although he came off the bench occasionally last season. Carter has embraced being a sixth man, a role that makes it easier for coach Rick Carlisle to manage the 36-year-old’s minutes but puts Carter in position to make a major impact.

“I told coach from the beginning of the year that I was willing to do whatever and take on any role,” said Carter, who knew the Mavs would need scoring off the bench when former Sixth Man of the Year Jason Terry left for Boston. “Obviously, I’m definitely comfortable in this role. It’s a comfortable role because it’s who I am. I like to make plays and put the ball in the basket and find open guys.”

Carter, who has moved past Hal Greer, Larry Bird and Gary Payton this season to climb to 28th on the NBA’s all-time scoring list, can still fill it up. He’s averaging 13.1 points in 25.3 minutes per game. The Mavs are 7-2 when Carter scores at least 20 points, including his 22-point outing in Sunday’s win over the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Carter is also arguably the most complete player among the Sixth Man of the Year candidates. He’s a smart, unselfish facilitator (2.1 assists per game), solid rebounder (4.0 per game) and an extremely underrated defender. (The Mavs allow 7.5 fewer points per 100 possessions with Carter on the floor than when he sits, according to 82games.com.)

The Mavs’ 29-33 record isn’t a reflection of Carter’s performance. In fact, his plus-minus of plus-151 ranks as the best on the team by 100 points.

Alas, there are too many quality sixth men from contenders for Carter to get serious consideration for the award. The Clippers’ Jamal Crawford, who leads bench players with 17.2 points per game, is considered the favorite in a field that also features the Knicks’ J.R. Smith, Thunder’s Kevin Martin, Warriors’ Jarrett Jack, Jazz’s Gordon Hayward and Spurs’ Manu Ginobili. Add the Hornets’ Ryan Anderson if you want to include a sixth man putting up stellar numbers on a losing squad.

Carter will be an afterthought in the Sixth Man of the Year voting. However, his professionalism and production are greatly appreciated by the Mavs, beginning with the man who signs the checks.
Mark Cuban never second-guessed the Jason Kidd deal when it was the popular thing to do. He certainly isn’t going to have any regret about it after Kidd played such a key role in winning a ring.

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However, the pair of picks that the Mavericks included in the package shipped to New Jersey are proof that quality players can be found in the bottom half of the first round, something the Mavs must start doing consistently to build a contender without breaking the bank under the new CBA.

The career paths of those picks also serve as proof that the Nets have been clueless, although they were dealt away before current GM Billy King took over. (Not that King hasn’t provided evidence that his plan is shaky at best. Exhibit A: Trading away the Nets’ lottery pick for rental role player Gerald Wallace.)

A look at what has become of the picks the Mavs parted with in the Kidd deal:

Ryan Anderson: The 21st overall pick in the 2008 draft has developed into one of the best perimeter-shooting power forwards in the NBA. Anderson was named the NBA’s Most Improved Player this season, even though his per-36-minute numbers are nearly identical to last season. He just got more minutes while serving as the second-leading scorer on a playoff team, averaging 16.1 points and 7.7 rebounds while shooting 39.3 percent (and taking the majority of his shots) from 3-point range. He was the throw-in with Vince Carter on the deal that sent Rafer Alston, Tony Battie and Courtney Lee to New Jersey.

Jordan Crawford: The shooting guard, who became famous for the confiscated-tape dunk on LeBron James during a summer camp while in college, provides scoring punch off the pine for a bad Wizards team. The 27th overall pick of the 2010 draft has averaged 13.5 points in two NBA seasons. The Nets swapped picks with the Hawks on draft day, taking Damion James. Atlanta moved Crawford to Washington midway through his rookie season.

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Dirk Nowitzki
PTS AST STL MIN
21.7 2.7 0.9 32.9
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsS. Marion 6.5
AssistsM. Ellis 5.7
StealsM. Ellis 1.7
BlocksB. Wright 0.9