After finishing this past season as the first team since the expansion Charlotte Bobcats to finish at the bottom of both offensive and defensive rating, the Phoenix Suns will take all the quality basketball players they can this offseason. If they plan on using at least one of their second round picks, heading in the direction of Jevon Carter wouldn’t be a bad idea.
During his four years under Bob Huggins in Morgantown, West Virginia, Carter became renowned for his aggressive defensive mentality and continuously improved his three-point efficiency over his college career.
Carter amassed an elite steal percentage of 5.9% alongside shooting while shooting 39.3% on 3s in 2017-18. The last prospect to put those numbers up was UCLA’s Jordan Adams in 2014, who was drafted by the Memphis Grizzlies. Also, former Arizona Wildcat T.J. McConnell alongside NBA journeyman Briante Weber are recent ones to reach those thresholds.
One name that’s continuously brought up next to Carter is the most aggressive primary initiator defender in Patrick Beverley. When combing through Beverley’s two seasons at Arkansas, they are very similar outside of Beverley being the better shooter early on. Meanwhile, Carter was barely shooting able 30% from deep until his final two years at West Virginia.
Where Carter has Beverley beat, though, is in playmaking and even defense. Per 36 minutes, Carter snatched 3.1 steals while also carrying an above-average AST/TO ratio of +2.5.
Since 2010, Carter is only joined by Kris Dunn and Michael Carter-Williams as prospects who held an assist percentage above 35% and steal percentage past 4.5%. Both Dunn and Carter-Williams were lottery picks, but Carter’s age and subpar blend of athleticism and length lead him towards an early second round projection.
In the 2018 Draft, the leader of West Virginia’s recent run of success falls victim to how deep this class is on ball handlers and wings. There are 12 ball handlers alone graded in my top 40.
Will Carter’s relentless motor and ever-improving shot allow him to rise in the predraft process? Lets analyze his strengths and weaknesses below.
If there was one way to describe Carter on defense, it would be simply like Pit Bull attack mentality. Under Huggins’ constant pressure system, Carter thrived. As an absolutely relentless defender for 90 feet every possession, his ability to get under the opponents’ skin is entertaining. Even though he isn’t much of a talker, you can tell during games that the primary initiator gets easily annoyed by Carter’s constant harassing.
With the potential of entering the NBA as someone who can be thrown instantly on some starting point guards, Carter’s profile will allow him to switch onto thicker wings constantly doing the dirty work for his squad. Whether it’s charging into the restricted area for a rebound or taking charges, Carter tends to always pull multiple off each game.
The footwork Carter displays on defense is some of the best of any prospect in this class. He’s very disciplined and knows how to work around foul trouble, if he’s placed into that scenario.
From an outsider perspective, I believe Igor Kokoskov would instantly fall in love with Carter because he’s someone who will never take plays off. He leaves it all on the floor each night, a quick way to gain respect and rotation minutes.
Carter also rarely makes mistakes out there. As evidence by his +2.5 AST/TO ratio, Carter knows where to go with the ball when he’s the primary initiator.
One area that held Carter back from declaring each of the last two years was his below-average shooting splits on three-pointers. Luckily for Carter with his tireless work ethic, his numbers boosted towards what pro scouts are looking for with his defensive archetype.
During his underclassmen years, Carter shot 31% on 3s then it flipped to 39.1% over his junior and senior seasons.
If the Suns are looking for someone who’s going to bring no-nonsense attitude and commitment to continuously hitting the grindstone, Carter might be an ideal candidate atop the second round.
As one would expect with Carter, his main knocks are ones out of his control. Not only is he not explosive athletically but also will already be 23 years old by the start of his rookie season.
Where his lack of athleticism hampers him is on drives towards the rim. Most of the time, Carter has to settle from mid-range because he’s unable to blow by his defender or is unable to navigate correctly around anchors down low. Usually the possessions for Carter where he’s aggressive towards the restricted area resulted in one of three things: drive-and-kicks to the corners, contested mid-range looks, or missing the layup through contact.
If there’s one area Carter’s offense really lacks is in that category, which has been hidden more with his improvements on three-point attempts.
Standing at only 6’1.5”, Carter faces an uphill battle against bigger guards but his mentality gives him the chance. Cut in a similar cloth to Beverley, he’s not going to back down from anybody and welcome all challengers into his gauntlet.
Carter’s age might give some teams pause in the early-mid second round over other prospects with higher upside like Tony Carr and Trevon Duval. However, Carter’s grinder mentality is going to win over plenty of others over the next few weeks leading up to June 21.
Physical Profile Overview
Wingspan: 6’4.25” (+2.75” H2W)
Standing Reach: 7’11”
Fit in Phoenix
The Suns are in need of not only more shooters but also players capable of defending at high levels. Selecting Carter at No. 31, or even No. 59 if he’s somehow there, would go a long way toward helping achieve that goal.
After averaging 18 points, 4.8 rebounds, 6.9 assists, and 3.1 steals per 36 minutes this past season for West Virginia, Carter also would allow Phoenix more backcourt versatility in certain situations. Pairing him in pure defense-first lineups alongside Shaquille Harrison would be very entertaining and likely cause some technical fouls with both never getting out of opposing players’ airspace.
Also, Carter would be compatible in lineups alongside Devin Booker. Carter would not only take the primary backcourt scoring option, but he’s an ideal partner to leak out into the corners for drive-and-kicks via Booker.
Right now, Phoenix only has Tyler Ulis and Harrison on their roster, and both could be let go with guarantee dates this summer anyways. The point guard hole is steep for the Suns and Carter would help in many different departments.
Throw Carter into a 15-20 minute role as the primary defensive agitator who can also be proficient on spot-ups and see how it goes. Odds are it would go well, because players who have profiled like Carter usually defeat the naysayers and land somewhere with a valuable role (ex: McConnell’s rise in Philadelphia).
Big Board: No. 38 (No. 12 Ball Handler)
Comparison: Ceiling - Patrick Beverley / Floor - Briante Weber