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Jevon Carter on trade from Suns, lessons from Finals run, what he brings to a team

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The Suns traded Carter to the Nets right before the 2021 Draft.

2021 NBA Finals - Game Four Photo by Jim Poorten/NBAE via Getty Images

Former Phoenix Suns backup guard Jevon Carter met with the media the other day on a Zoom call after being introduced by the Brooklyn Nets.

The Suns traded Carter and the 29th overall pick (which became 6’11” big man Day’Ron Sharpe) to the Nets for shooting guard Landry Shamet on the day of the 2021 NBA Draft.

Phoenix objectively got an upgrade in Shamet, a good shooter on the move and better playmaker than Carter. He is also a few years younger than Carter, hinting at a chance for even higher upside.

But #TreadmillMentality will be missed in the Valley.

After making a big impression in the Bubble as a backup shooting guard and getting a three year, $9 million contract for it, Jevon Carter found himself in a tough spot this past season with the Phoenix Suns.

Carter played well in the mid-pandemic Bubble run as a feisty, relentless defender of opposing guards, often picking up the primary ball handler full court and sticking to him like glue. He and Cameron Payne were an exciting backup tandem behind All-Bubble All-Star Devin Booker and reliable Ricky Rubio. On the offensive end, he flashed a reliable catch-and-shoot three point stroke from the high wing, making a whopping 55% of almost 4 attempts per game. Like his stature, his role was small but impactful (+9 net rating in 24 minutes per game) and his future in the NBA as a Patrick Beverley type of player looked solid.

But he had a tough opening to the 2020-21 season, making just 27% of his threes over the first 17 games, and fell into a cruel game of musical chair with Langston Galloway, E’Twaun Moore and Abdel Nader. Eventually, the role came back around to him. He played in every one of the last 26 games of the regular season, averaging 15 minutes, making 40% of 3.3 threes with a positive net rating.

But when the playoffs came and rotations tightened, he found himself on the sideline once again. The Suns 8-man rotation did not include much of anything from Carter, Moore, Galloway or Nader at all.

“Didn’t play the role I wanted too but I played my role,” Carter said on Instagram after the Finals ended. “I’ve seen with my own eyes what it takes to be great. And I ain’t striving for nothing less... Can’t Wait Til Next Year!”

When asked what he meant by ‘didn’t play the role I wanted to but I played my role’, you get a glimpse of what makes Carter a great teammate.

“Basically, ‘I didn’t play the role I wanted to’ meaning I wasn’t out there, I wasn’t able to help my team on the floor,” he explained on a Zoom call with media in Brooklyn. “But mentally, off the court, on the side, in the huddles, in practice, I’m very vocal. I’m a vocal leader.”

Carter was often credited through the year as being the most talkative player on the sideline, constantly engaged in the game on the court as well as on the sidelines. If someone said Chris Paul talked a lot, they also agreed that Carter came in a close second.

Carter’s next comment reminded me of all those sideline ‘coaching opportunities’ that Paul, Devin Booker, Monty Williams and his staff would give young center Deandre Ayton throughout the year.

“Like seeing two guys head-butting each other,” Carter said of his sideline style. “Talk to both of them, showing them both sides of it. They coming together, being able to go out there and finish the game. Stuff that you probably don’t want to hear from a coach, you’d rather hear it from a player. You got a different type of relationship with them. I’m saying what the coach is saying, just in a different way. Some guys take that better hearing it from their peers than hearing it from a coach.”

Chris Paul often described the Suns as a family this past year, and once mentioned that Carter and Mikal Bridges were like his sons. That tells you where the life-giving high energy was coming from.

Carter had always had to fight for a role since being taken at the top of the second round by the Grizzlies in 2018. His limitations at the NBA level are easy to see. He’s shorter than most, doesn’t make enough plays on the move for himself or anyone else and can’t get to the rim in the half court. Even on defense, he has trouble locking up anyone bigger than a small shooting guard, which makes it tough to have him out there in a heavy-switching defense.

But his strengths are just as easy to see. He’s absolutely relentless, like a bulldog, on an opposing like-sized ball handler.

“Defense is very personal. You shouldn’t have a bad game defensively. You gonna have games when you’re scoring and not scoring, but you shouldn’t have a game where you’re just bad defensively. That should just never happen.”

The Nets need Carter’s defense more than they needed Shamet’s shot-making, given that they are already the most talented offensive team in the league with Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden in the lineup. Shamet was a good shooter off their bench, but they did not have a bulldog defender at the point of attack. Now they do, in Carter.

And he can make open threes with consistency, getting better late in the year every year of his career. They may have to be wide open, but with the Nets that’s going to be quite common.

On what he brings to the Nets after the Finals run with the Suns, Carter sounds like he’s channeling Monty Williams and Chris Paul.

“Everything counts,” Carter said of what he learned. “The little stuff throughout the year, the extra stuff you gotta put in, and just everybody being on the same page and being a unit. If one person falls short, that could collapse the whole deal.”

He’s looking forward to joining another title contender in the Nets, though he’s not making any assumptions after being traded for the second time in his four-year career.

“It was like a way for me to start a new chapter,” Carter says of the trade. “Hopefully it’s a good fit. We’ll see how it goes.”

Carter has two low-salary years left on his contract, a perfect fit for a Nets team well into the luxury tax territory with three super-max players at the top of the totem pole.

In the meantime, he’s still loyal to his former teammates. He went to Vegas, just like they’d planned all year, to join up with the fellas to celebrate Cam Payne’s birthday.

Here’s his goodbye to the Valley, via Instagram.

Gonna miss you, JC.