It's no secret that Vince Carter is the most despised player on the current Suns roster. Some here have called him their most hated player in team history. We've heard all about how he doesn't show effort and has no heart. It got so bad that many expressed the feeling that Carter ruined the Suns' playoff chances, and that the team would have been better off had they simply cut him and eaten his salary liability. In reality, it wasn't as bad as all that. Light Vince Carter on fire? Nah, I want to give him a great big hug. Let me tell you why.
See? If you light him on fire, it might spread to Nash and Frye. Nobody wants that!
The Suns never really wanted Vince Carter and Vince Carter never really wanted to be a Sun. Let's start there. When the Suns made the deal with the Magic, the Suns' goal was to dump Hedo Turkoglu's salary and acquire Marcin Gortat. The only way to entice the Magic to make that deal was to allow them to exchange Vince Carter for Jason Richardson. Salaries also had to match up to allow the trade to go through. Carter was caught in the crossfire, as his salary and position fit the trade.
Carter is a Florida native, has family remaining there and intended to finish his career with the Magic. He was home, and was on a team that was a serious title contender. When he was shipped to Phoenix, he was essentially exiled from home, and moved from a contender to a team struggling to make .500. You think his motivation was poor? Well yeah, wouldn't yours be? Additionally, the Suns didn't really want him. They hoped they could plug him in and have him do what J-Rich had done, but Carter's not the same type of player. Since it was given that he would be bought out by the Suns after this season, he was also only a rental player, a mercenary.
So we have a player who had the wind taken out of his sails, and a team that had no incentive to integrate him into what they do. Did anyone expect that to go well? Why is it all Carter's fault that it didn't?
Let's also be realistic about Carter's performance. It was the worst of his career, but it wasn't disastrous. As I wrote here, by one advanced statistical measure, as of April 6th Carter was the 4th most effective Suns player for the season, only slightly behind Jason Richardson. His 17.9 points, 4.8 rebounds, 1.2 steals per 36 minutes on .494 eFG% (takes 3s into account) were respectable. Carter's impact on the performance of the team? The Suns were 12-13 when they made the trade. They finished the season 40-42. 1 game below .500 before VC, 1 game below .500 with VC. Carter ruined the season? Please. The season was ruined already. You could say he's guilty of not saving the season, but who realistically expected he would?
Look, I know Carter didn't play well for us, and I know J-Rich was a beloved Sun who everyone hated to see go. And of course, I'm being a little tongue in cheek here by responding to the CTLVCOF. But the Carter hatred is over the top. The bond between the Suns and Carter was the result of a shotgun wedding. He alone can't be blamed that it wasn't a smashing success. Also, going overboard about how badly Carter played will mislead us into thinking it will be advantageous when he's gone, just by his absence. Believe it or not, we could have had a worse SG than Carter. Take a look at the list of affordable free agent SGs, and you'll see that we could have a worse SG next year.
So Vince, I'm sorry things didn't work out between us, but no hard feelings, OK? I ain't mad at'cha. Come here and give me a great big man hug. All right. Now, take your $4 million buyout and get the hell out of here.
Update: For comparison's sake, since there is so much "we need Arron Afflalo" sentiment flowing recently, here's how they stacked up for this past regular season according to Basketball Reference. Afflalo does have a clear edge. 42% 3 point shooting? Sign me up for that!
Per 36 Minutes: