Sixth Man Rankings: Championing Dallas’ second unit, Vince Carter is thriving

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As the Dallas Mavericks compete for one of the most competitive No. 8 seeds in NBA history, they’ve relied heavily on Vince Carter to provide veteran leadership and production to the team’s second lineup.

While he is the team’s sixth man by assignment, coach Rick Carlisle still considers him one of Dallas’ most important players. This is evident by Carter’s defined role in the final minutes of close games.

Carter is averaging nearly seven fourth-quarter minutes per game in 2013-2014, nearly two more minutes than he receives in any other quarter.

While his per game stats of 12.1 points, 3.6 rebounds and 2.7 assists indicate that Carter’s a shell of the All-Star he used to be, it’s misleading to think that Carter is fading. When extended out to 36 minutes, Carter’s 17.8 points, 5.3 rebounds, 3.9 assists show he’s still a versatile contributor.

Moreover, Carter’s playing like he embraces efficiency more than ever:

Over his last 20 games, Carter’s offensive rating has exceeded 110 points per 100 possessions.

This has done wonders for Dallas’ second unit. Reunited with former Nets teammate Devin Harris, the Mavericks’ bench has transformed from a weakness in recent years to a relative strength.

“As a whole, the five-man second unit of Devin Harris, Jae Crowder, Nowitzki, (Brandan) Wright, and Carter is scoring 117.4 points and allowing just 87.8 per 100 possessions this season, both elite marks. The unit’s 29.6 net rating — the difference between points scored and points allowed per 100 possessions — is 5th-best in the NBA since Jan. 18 among lineups with at least 50 minutes played. (Jan. 18 was Harris’s season debut.)” - Per Bobby Karalla of Mavs.com

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As you can see, Carter has found his comfort zones on the court. When Carlisle puts Carter alongside Dirk Nowitzki and Jose Calderon in the rotation, Dallas’ perimeter threats open up driving lanes for Monta Ellis.

On to the rankings.

RANK Player RUNDOWN RECENT
1 Phoenix Suns MARKIEFF MORRIS, F, PHOENIX: ”No player has logged more minutes as a reserve. Morris has averaged 16.7 points on a sterling .617 true shooting percentage since the break, all off the bench. Phoenix has outscored opponents with him on the floor in 16 of his last 23 outings.” – Bradford Doolittle 1
2 Taj Gibson headshot TAJ GIBSON, F, CHICAGO: Gibson has earned seven starts this season and looks poised to take over the role full time next season. In those seven games, Gibson has averaged 20.6 points and 9.7 rebounds. For this season, though, he still qualifies as a sixth man. 2
3 Oklahoma City Thunder REGGIE JACKSON, G, OKLAHOMA CITY: Took a few games off with a back injury but is still shooting better than 40% from deep on the month. 3
4 SAS_Ginobili_Manu MANU GINOBILI, G, SAN ANTONIO: San Antonio’s dominance has actually hurt Ginobili’s case. He’s averaging such few minutes over the team’s recent surge that his per game numbers now fail to tell the story of his on-court efficiency.  4
5 Dallas Mavericks Media Day 2013-2014 VINCE CARTER, G-F, DALLAS: He’s shooting 45% from deep since the All-Star Break, keeping the Mavericks in the fight for a spot in the playoffs.  
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DROPOUTS: Jamal Crawford (5).

FIVE TO WATCH: Alec Burks, G, Utah; Patty Mills, G, San Antonio; J.R. Smith, G, New York; D.J. Augustin, G, Chicago; Nick Young, G, LA Lakers.

OTHER RANKINGS: Rookie | Most Improved | MVP | Power

Jacob Eisenberg is a student at Emory University, spending the spring semester abroad in Brazil, and covers the NBA for SheridanHoops.com. Check out his website and click here to follow him on Twitter. 

Why Australia’s Dante Exum Will Be a High Lottery Pick

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Dante Exum AustraliaAustralian basketball has received a much-needed shot in the arm over the last 12 months.

And just wait and see what’s coming next.

Former top overall draft pick Andrew Bogut has returned to full health and is again playing solid two-way basketball for the surging Golden State Warriors. Patty Mills has emerged from chief towel waver for the San Antonio Spurs to knockdown 3-point gunner. And undrafted rookie guard Matthew Dellavedova has worked his way into the rotation for the Cleveland Cavaliers.

It is also worth mentioning that All-Star Kyrie Irving holds dual citizenship in the United States and Australia and returns to my home city of Melbourne in the offseason to promote the game and host camps. Things are definitely looking up for starved Aussie hoops fans. And the best may be yet to come.

Enter Dante Exum.

Hubbard: News flash: Spurs and James Bond have nothing in common

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gregg popovichConsidering his background in the military, it should not be surprising that Gregg Popovich leads a unit that seems to always fly under the radar. Figuratively, of course.

Popovich is a graduate of the Air Force Academy and stayed in the service long enough to serve a tour of duty in the Kurdish area in eastern Turkey near the border of Syria. It was a top secret assignment; obviously, the good military man has never elaborated on it, other than to say reports of him being some sort of super spy are highly exaggerated.

“I was stationed on the border,” he once told me, “but it wasn’t like I was James Bond.”

Except for military-like precision, there is little comparison to his job for the last 18 years – other than the fact that he directs an operation that seems to do everything quietly.

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Tony Parker out a month with sprained ankle

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En route to the best record in the NBA, the San Antonio Spurs have withstood injuries to Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Kawhi Leonard.

Now they will have to do without Tony Parker, their most indispensable player.

The Spurs announced Saturday that Parker had an MRI that revealed a Grade 2 sprain of his left ankle that will sideline him for four weeks.

Parker was hurt in the third quarter of Friday’s 130-102 home rout of Sacramento. He is averaging a career-high 21.0 points (10th in the NBA) and 7.6 assists (sixth) while shooting 53.3 percent fron the field (first among guards).

Parker has started to receive MVP consideration. Prior to the All-Star break, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich – whose gushing comes extremely grudgingly – said his point guard “should be in every conversation for any award that’s going to be given.”

Popovich continued his campaign last week, saying, “Name me a point guard who’s had a better season? I can’t think of one.”

The Spurs are 46-14, two games in front of Miami for the NBA’s best record and homecourt advantage throughout the playoffs. San Antonio also is trying to hold off Oklahoma City (42-16) and the Los Angeles Clippers (43-18) in the Western Conference.

Over the last three seasons, the Spurs are 150-44 when Parker plays and just 7-7 when he doesn’t.

However, if told their star point guard was going to miss a month, the Spurs probably would have picked March. They have 13 games remaining in the month and 11 are at home.

Parker’s backups are rookie Nando de Colo and Patty Mills. Ginobili also runs the offense on occasion.

SH Blog: The 3-Man Weave, Week 1

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In SheridanHoops’ latest weekly installment, contributors Jeremy Bauman, Maxwell Ogden and Ben Baroff are happy to introduce the 3-Man Weave.

Once a week we’ll be bringing you three different opinions on the latest topics around the NBA.

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