Earlier this month, rumors surfaced that the Toronto Raptors were interested in signing Vince Carter for the remainder of the season if he were to reach a buyout agreement with the Sacramento Kings.
Say what you want about Vince Carter, but it’s difficult to deny the impact that his tenure with the Toronto Raptors had on the growth of basketball in Canada. Carter’s electrifying play not only brought attention to the sport, but inspired a generation of kids to trade in their skates and, instead, lace up their Shox for the basketball court. With the Raptors on pace to have their greatest season in franchise history and the end of Vince’s career looming, this was shaping up to be a storybook ending for both parties.
Make no mistake, bringing Vince Carter back wouldn’t necessarily be a “basketball decision”, but rather a way to boost locker room morale and generate further buzz for the team. Raptors fans have had a love-hate relationship with Carter since his abrupt trade in 2004, but 14 years later it seems that Raptor Nation has forgiven the former star and would welcome him back to the city.
However, recent reports have stated that the Raptors’ are no longer in pursuit of Carter and have since diverted their attention to signing former UCLA star Arron Afflalo. The rationale for pursuing Afflalo makes sense. Since being drafted in 2007, Afflalo has built his reputation on being a formidable role player that can provide scoring and defense off the bench. On the contrary, signing Afflalo would be a basketball decision; further deepening the Raptors bench and adding a veteran with extensive playoff experience to the team.
Arguments could be made for signing both players. Let’s take a look at the impact signing either player would have on the remainder of the Raptors’ season.
Raptors Featuring Vince Carter
The Raptors have been looking to fill their final roster spot with a serviceable player all year. Would 41-year-old Carter, with nearly 20 seasons under his belt and half-a-knee be that guy? Honestly, probably not.
Carter would have difficulty cracking the Raptors rotation, and if anything, would be relegated to playing in garbage time. Competing with Derozan, Powell, and Miles, there is little chance that Carter would play any meaningful minutes in meaningful games.
Despite the marginal impact he would have on the court, Carter’s true value would be realized in the locker room and in the city itself.
As the most experienced veteran in that locker room, Carter could act as a mentor to our young core. In addition, his experience navigating through the playoffs would help players remain level headed and focused during the team’s playoff run. He could empathize with the Raptors’ stars and provide guidance for the up-and-comers.
It’s impossible to quantify the impact signing Vince Carter would have on the city of Toronto, but I’m going hypothesize that it would be somewhere between really big and massive.
Simply put, Toronto had never seen an athlete like Vince Carter. Carter’s play single handedly put Toronto on the basketball map with his gravity-defying dunks and his superstar aura. Many have speculated that without Carter, basketball may have never taken off in this country and the Raptors would have faced the same fate as the Vancouver Grizzlies. Bringing Vince Carter back to Toronto would undoubtedly result in an increase in ticket prices, jersey sales, overall Raptor hype. It would evoke nostalgia amongst older Raptors fans and give new fans a glimpse of the Raptors’ past.
It is arguable, though, that these factors far outweigh the on-court production that someone at the end of the rotation could provide. In the worst-case scenario, Carter’s on court impact is limited. In the best-case scenario, Carter is to the Raptors what Kevin Garnett was to the Timberwolves two seasons ago or James Jones to the 2016 NBA Champion Cavaliers – an invaluable locker room presence.
Raptors Featuring Arron Afflalo
The value in signing Arron Afflalo is, in many ways, much more concrete than it would be with signing Vince Carter. For starters, Afflalo is far younger and would be able to provide more high quality minutes off the bench. Additionally, his playoff experience is arguably more valuable than Carter’s as he’s made it deeper into the playoffs than Carter ever did in his career, albeit in a smaller role. Furthermore, Afflalo has shot a respectable 38.6% from the three in his career and would align well with the Raptors’ new style of play that places a heavy emphasis on shooting from behind the arc.
In addition, Arron Afflalo has shown signs of toughness as of late. His tough demeanor would certainly help the Raptors maintain their edge throughout the playoffs. And though Afflalo’s experience wouldn’t match Carter’s, the young Raptors players would still be able to draw upon a wealth of experience from his ten-year tenure in the league.
At the end of the day, Arron Afflalo is a player that could actually contribute. Which is more than we could say about Vince Carter. However, Arron Afflalo isn’t Vince Carter, who would undoubtedly have a greater sentimental impact on the city and its fans.
If you were Masai Ujiri, who would you rather pursue: Vince Carter, Arron Afflalo or is there another option?
Let us know what you think!