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Jevon Carter is playing more — and the Suns are better for it

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#4 has made the most of his minutes — and then some.

Oklahoma City Thunder v Phoenix Suns Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images

Hoo, hoo, hoo. Did someone let the dogs out?

In the land of the Valley, the answer that question is of course, an unequivocal, resounding yes.

The culprit behind that answer — the man who’s let his “bulldog” run free more than ever as of recent, is Phoenix Suns head coach Monty Williams.

His ever-steady, clamp-heavy, always-ready bulldog: Jevon Carter. And Carter’s unwavering doggedness has the Suns playing some of their basketball of the season.

Carter has started in just five of the 143 games he’s suited up for during his three-year professional career, and this season he’s begun every contest on the pine.

In fact, he didn’t play at all in several outings as CP^2 (Chris Paul and Cam Payne) chewed up deserved space in PHX’s backcourt, but my aforementioned “ever-ready” label applies perfectly as a descriptive adjective to #4.

Carter’s moxie is unwavering, and he’s shown that with the contributions he’s provided during his invaluable — albeit miniscule — on-court time throughout his career. At this point though, that time is something that Monty Williams is finding increasingly harder to withhold from him.

His seasonal minutes summation has mirrored the trajectory of the stock market: it’s been an unpredictable roller-coaster game-by-game, as sporadic spurts counteracting with sizeable chunks of game action have fused with DNPs to create one topsy-turvy line graph rife with questions. We seemingly never know what kind of opportunities we’ll see him apportioned with week-to-week.

But despite unbeknownst predetermined playing time totals in the short term, his long-term game shifts have vaulted upwards over time, and fans are beginning to take heed of his swelling market value.

He didn’t surpass 20 in-game minutes until his squad’s 16th matchup against Oklahoma City, going 32 more games before reaching the benchmark again — against Oklahoma City.

But in the last 10 tilts, Carter’s recorded totals of 25, 21, 21 and 24 minutes, an advent of plus-20 affairs that’s bound to remain consistent should he preserve the sweet spirit of play he’s provided his team with during the stretch.

He posted 14 points in Phoenix’s 28-point blowout of Washington, following that performance up with back-to-back nine-point showings in which he lit up 3-point land at a clip above 50%, and finished with a +23 +/- rating in the latter vs. Miami.

His best game score (a Basketball Reference measure created by John Hollinger to assess a player’s overall productivity metric regarding his impact on the game) of 14.1 came two nights later against Sacramento: a 13-point shooting display in which Carter missed just one attempt from the floor, amassing an 83% sum, including 75% from deep.

Then came his season-high — 17 points on a smoothly efficient 7-11 mark overall, and 42.9% beyond the arc.

And if you watched the fourth quarter of the madness in Philly, you know that the Suns don’t win without Carter’s rapid array of momentum-quelling 3-balls. The Bulldog knocked down three 3’s in three minutes, a successive slew of flurries that put his troupe up seven — a lead they would control through the final buzzer.

The Suns’ record when he’s supplanted 15 minutes since the All-Star break: 7-1. His cumulative plus/minus mark in those matchups: +28.

There is no greater metric to measure a player’s value to his team than winning, and Carter holds a special relationship with victorious endeavors.

It’s the quality he’s striven to become known for throughout the breadth of his playing career. He’s never been the strongest force on either end of the floor — never been the fastest, most nimble or dexterous.

But the size of his heart is immeasurable. Carter’s the first one to hit the floor for dispossessed loose balls. He’s ne’er too shy to sacrifice his body for a charge in lieu of an extra possession. And nearly any film tape one can scour up of his successful exports on the offensive end reveals a motor that seemingly never ceases, as he transitions into full-on 94-feet lockdown mode on his opponent.

They say it’s the little plays that make the big difference on any given night. Carter’s the quintessential epitome of that.

And in this magnificent aggregation of Suns basketball during 2020-21, while Carter still provides the uncalculated intangibles, his contributions are so much more than modest.

Known purely as a defensive savant after earning a Second-Team All-America award and a haul of DPOY trophies at West Virginia, Suns Nation has witnessed his game transform into a well-rounded efficiency-assembly.

His playmaking, ball-security and offensive IQ have all noticeably escalated with CP3 in town. In fact, Carter’s assist/turnover ratio (4.2) is tops on the team. He has the third-highest assist rate behind the squad’s other two point guards, and his turnover percent (4.9) is top-3 league-wide amongst players with at least 40 games played.

He’s also shooting a noteworthy 54.3% from 2-point range, and 55.7% on effective field goals. His 3-point shooting remains a work in progress, but when it matters most, he’s long been dependable in the clutch.

The NBA landscape is fully aware of Jevon Carter’s ability to shut down opposing ball-handlers. His defensive stats mirror that. But this season, he’s showing that he’s an asset whenever he’s in the lineup — period.

So make room, basketball world: the Bulldog is barking his way right into the limelight of his career, and an undeniable role on what fans hope will be a championship team.