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2018 NBA Draft Deep Dive: Magic have opportunity to get defensive by drafting Carter

Aaron explains why the late first/early second round is the spot to target a certain “depth” point guard

West Virginia v Villanova Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

I’m a firm believer that late in the Draft, whether it be the late first or early second round, teams should draft for need. Swing for the fences in the lottery; go for the “best player available” if that’s what the organization needs to do.

However, outside of the Top-20 picks or so, completely different story. Positional need, skill-set need, and situation are determining factors that should be weighed before selecting a young prospect.

As we all know, the Magic were awarded the sixth pick in the upcoming NBA Draft last Tuesday night. Regardless of what the Magic decide to do with that pick, one fact remains.

Heading into next season, the Magic have one point guard on their roster with a guaranteed contract. Of course, Orlando’s new management team decided to trade former Magic starting point guard Elfrid Payton at the NBA Trade Deadline last February. That created an opportunity for Shelvin Mack to earn some regular minutes for the Magic to close the year out, but his contract next season is only partially guaranteed.

The Magic own the 35th and 41st picks in this draft, they need to use one of those picks to add some point guard depth to the roster.

And I think the lead-guard depth in this class is most plentiful in the 25-45 range, so the Magic are in a great situation to have a look at guys like Jalen Brunson, Khyri Thomas, Elie Okobo, Devonte Graham, and others.

I believe the Magic should take an opportunity in this spot to target their guy who can become the team’s back-up point guard. If he’s not going to be there at #35, they can try packaging their two picks in an effort to move up (into the 25-30 range for example). The Magic also have Nikola Vucevic and Terrence Ross, two players with expiring contracts, to work with.

I’m going to provide pieces that take a deeper look at the kind of lead guards the Magic should be targeting in an effort to rebuild their point guard depth.

Second in this series, a veteran point guard out of Morgantown with a “junkyard dog” defensive mentality has caught my attention.

Jevon Carter, Point Guard (22 years old)
6-1.5, 195 (6-4 wingspan)

Ranking/Mock Draft Slot The Ringer Tankathon The Stepien CBS Sports Sports Illustrated
Jevon Carter 56th 40th 37th 43rd 32nd

I don’t know where else to start this breakdown other than to mention that Jevon Carter is the definition of an elite on-ball defender. He’s one of the better defensive guards to play at the collegiate level in over a decade. Carter has been recognized the last two seasons as the National Defensive Player of the Year. He was also named the Defensive Player of the Year in the Big 12 for the second consecutive season, the only guard to be recognized twice with that award in the history of the conference.

Carter possesses top-end lateral ability which he uses to get into his opponent’s comfort areas, strength for his size that allows him to “bully” timid guards, and defensive instincts and awareness that have allowed him to average over 3.0 steals per/40 in three of his four seasons at West Virginia. I can’t recall a college guard that grinds out possessions on defense as often as Carter has.

West Virginia has run the premiere full-court pressure defense in the country during Carter’s four year career. The senior guard has been the relentless spearhead of the Mountaineer’s full-court attack for three years.

Rubin notes that “no other guard has broken 25 minutes a night in two seasons (that) West Virginia has been pressing. And there have only been two occasions when another guard played as much as 35 minutes in a game.” Carter has regularly played at least 35 minutes on over 35 occasions in the last three seasons.

Carter has improved tremendously on the offensive end over his four year stint in Morgantown. The Illinois product, who was unranked by most national sites coming out of high school, was solidly a one-way player at West Virginia until his junior season. Carter’s scoring jumped from 13.7 points per/40 his freshmen and sophomore seasons to 16.9 points per/40 his junior year, and 20.0 points per/40 (to go along with a career high 7.7 assists per/40) over his senior season. Carter shot 39% on his 3PT attempts over the last two seasons; a stark difference compared to his 31% 3PT proficiency during his first two campaigns.

West Virginia v Villanova Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Carter doesn't possess ideal length for an NBA guard, but I don’t think his 6-4 wingspan will prove to be a detriment for Carter on defense. He is plenty strong enough (to go along with exceptional defensive instincts) to still make an impact on that side of the ball.

However, Carter struggles mightily finishing at the rim. This is where his lack of elite length, as well as a below level of run-and-jump ability, will hurt Carter in the NBA. He basically doesn’t need to be guarded inside the three-point line.

Carter also lacks a tight handle. I’m still not convinced that he can run an NBA pick-and-roll effectively on a consistent basis. Considering that he’s a four-year college player who will be 23 at the start of next season, that is legitimately concerning.

Carter is at the top of the list for me of prospects whose success in the NBA will be heavily determined by which organization drafts him. I think Carter can thrive in a role where he defends the point of the attack on defense, but plays off the ball on offense.

In other words, Carter’s optimal situation to get drafted into would consist of team personnel that would allow him to play on a second unit where he can guard the opposing team’s point guard, while also spacing the floor by playing off a wing-initiating teammate on offense.

I’m not sure Orlando’s roster would provide Carter with an opportunity to reach his ceiling as a player (unless he shared the second unit back-court with Evan Fournier, who does possess some play-making ability. But I doubt Fournier comes off the bench next season).

Still, Carter in Orlando makes a lot of sense. I’m usually a quantitative thinker; I try not to put too much stock in things like “heart”, “winning”, “toughness”, or “grit” when evaluating players. Those qualities are just too hard to quantify.

I think I have to make an exception with Carter. The quantitative reasons to draft Carter (his defensive metrics, such as posting a DBPM rating over 4.0 for three straight years) are backed up by the fact that he’s just mean (or at least plays that way).

Jevon Carter’s best film: March 18th vs. Marshall (NCAA Tournament: Round of 32)
Carter’s line: 28 points (10-18 FGA’s, 5-7 3PA’s, 3-3 FTA’s), 5 assists, 5 steals, 4 rebounds

If the Magic truly are trying to change their culture, even drafting a backup point guard in the second round such as Jevon Carter would go a long way towards turning around said culture. He would make practices hell for the other guards on the roster; he would play every defensive possession like it’s his last.

It just depends what a team (and their management) prefers in a backup guard. I tend to prefer reserve point guards who run the offense, take care of the ball, and stretch the floor. Defensive aptitude from a backup point guard is not very important to me.

But, I wouldn’t be shocked at all if Orlando selects a player like Jevon Carter (either at #35, #41, or through a trade). Passing on him may prove difficult in the future to defend.