Is Vince Carter done?
I'm not sure if Vince Carter is hurt, if he's emotionally checked out, or if he's just an old man at age 34. And as a fantasy owner, I'm not sure it matters at this point.
We know that Carter is long removed from the days of Vinsanity. But as recently as a month ago, VC seemed invigorated playing alongside Steve Nash.
In his first 10 games with the Phoenix Suns, Carter averaged 18.9 points, 5.2 rebounds and 2.6 3-pointers. The high point came on Jan. 17 in Madison Square Garden, when he torched the New York Knicks for 29 points, 12 boards and 5 triples.
The high point? Now it seems more like the last hurrah.
Just two nights later, Carter disappeared against the woeful Cleveland Cavaliers. Even more surprising than Carter scoring three points was the fact that he attempted only six field goals in 35 minutes.
Since then, single-digit scoring nights have been more or less the norm. During the past 15 games, starting with the contest in Cleveland, he's averaged 11.1 points and 1.3 3s while shooting 38.2 percent. In the midst of this stretch, almost inexplicably, Carter erupted for 33 points against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Feb. 2. But he failed to top 10 points in any of the six games that followed, prompting Suns head coach Alvin Gentry to explore other options in the fourth quarter.
By those recent standards, the 16 points Carter produced on Thursday against the Dallas Mavericks represent an improvement. He made 6-of-11 shots, and he was on the court in the final period. But by fantasy standards, it was another hollow line. Aside from the points, Carter managed one trey and one rebound. That was it.
Certainly, Carter has bounced back from slumps before. However, this time, I think this is it. Take that for what it's worth: Before this season, relative to his ADP, I liked Carter as a sleeper pick. I thought he could bounce back with a strong Orlando Magic team. But now I reluctantly find myself with the handful of owners who've dropped Carter in ESPN.com leagues (his availability has slipped to 97.9 percent during the past seven days).
In standard leagues, I think you can find free agents who will help your team more than Vince Carter will.
• For the first time in a while, Suns starting center Robin Lopez (13 points, 13 rebounds, 2 blocks) outplayed his "backup," Marcin Gortat (nine points and six rebounds in just 17 minutes). While the big redhead had the hot hand, Dirk Nowitzki's shooting range may explain why the Suns went with the more mobile Lopez. For the long haul, though, Gortat should continue to be a fantasy asset.
• From the standpoint of the Memphis Grizzlies, no one player can replace Rudy Gay. But like Seth Landman, I see Tony Allen making hay in the hustle cats while Gay is sidelined. In the four games before the break, Allen amassed 16.0 points and 3.0 steals. Another possibility is Sam Young, who's done well as a starter (13.4 points and 1.6 steals in his past eight). Both are available in more than 90 percent of leagues.
• Two players I'd stash over the All-Star break if you have a roster spot to spare: Troy Murphy and Ty Lawson. Either by trade or buyout, Murphy's purgatory with the New Jersey Nets seems about at an end. He's available in 65 percent of ESPN.com leagues. As for Lawson, he's a must-grab should Chauncey Billups leave the Denver Nuggets as part of a Carmelo Anthony deal. Lawson is a free agent in more than 90 percent of leagues.
Neil Tardy is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.