Orlando Magic shooting guard Vince Carter, an 8-time All-Star and among the many high-profile players to change teams last summer, had a miserable January. To be clear, he hadn't played exceptionally well all season, but he sunk to new depths last month, scoring a mere 8.7 points per game on 38.7% True Shooting, a metric which accounts for "points per shooting possession used" (thanks, Tom). As I wrote two days ago, I'm finished trying to diagnose what's wrong with his shot. Maybe his left shoulder, which he sprained in a game against Washington last month, ails him more than he's letting on. In any case, as Tim Povtak demonstrates when he writes, "[t]he Magic have been winning, not because of newly-acquired but rapidly-fading Vince Carter, but in spite of him," Carter's getting a lot of attention for the wrong reasons.
Which is a shame, really, because he's doing other things, like defending and taking care of the ball, fairy well. And because it's taking attention away from J.J. Redick, his backup, currently in his fourth season. Redick buoyed the Magic in January, providing 11.1 points per game on a remarkably efficient 60.7% True Shooting. For perspective, only 8 guards have maintained that mark over an entire season since 2005/06: Ray Allen, Brent Barry, Chauncey Billups, Ronnie Brewer, Josh Childress, Manu Ginobili, Kevin Martin, and Steve Nash. Redick's poised to become the 9th member of that group.
Not only is he scoring efficiently, he's doing so in key situations. Magic play-by-play man David Steele points out that Redick has averaged 4.2 points per fourth quarter this season, and cites recent performances against Detroit, Boston, and Charlotte as the most recent examples of Redick's heroics.
He also proved to be a capable secondary ballhandler, with a Pure Point Rating of 2.3 in January; for comparison, former Magic small forward Hedo Turkoglu, often lauded for his playmaking skills, tallied a Pure Point Rating of 1.6 last season and 0.9 two years ago.
Redick's solid play isn't limited to just January, as he's having a career season by just about any measure. But I did want to highlight that his productivity and efficiency at shooting guard last month helped offset Carter's slump. I don't believe Redick has seriously inserted himself into the Most Improved Player conversation, but I do believe--as does Steele--that his game has improved remarkably, in all areas, from last season to this one. Thus, it's easy to understand why more teams have inquired about Redick's availability in a trade lately, and why GM Otis Smith has continued to turn them down. Eddy and I agree that the Magic will need to address Carter's age--he turned 33 last month--within the next year or so, perhaps via a free-agent signing or trade. But Redick's medium-usage, high-efficiency production this season, as well as his developing skills as a facilitator, make me wonder if they haven't already found Carter's successor.