When the Milwaukee Bucks essentially traded Donte DiVincenzo for Serge Ibaka, the expectation was for the team’s already loaded dearth of perimeter defense to take a small dip to fill the gaping need in a frontcourt that had been missing Brook Lopez all season long.
Nobody could have foreseen that the Bucks would simply reload with another defensive guard of arguably the same caliber. Enter Jevon Carter. In just his first few appearances for the defending champions, the West Virginia product has made his presence felt every time he’s stepped on the court for the Milwaukee Bucks.
“Jevon has made a really, really good first impression in a short period of time. To be able to put him on a point guard like Conley…it just felt like he gave us a lot of good defensive situations that were going to give us our best chance,” head coach Mike Budenholzer told reporters after the Bucks took down the Utah Jazz for the first time since 2001.
“Offensively, he’s playing great. He hits the two big free throws. He’s made just a great first impression. He’s playing really well.”
It’s clear both his teammates and coaching staff have sung his praises thanks to his tireless play on both ends of the court. But with the regular season coming to a close, it’s also worth asking whether he’ll be playing any minutes in the playoffs.
Here’s a quick look at what Jevon Carter brings to the Milwaukee Bucks, and whether or not these skills can translate well to winning post-season basketball.
Jevon Carter is a defensive hound more than anything else
His is a brand of defense that is as unbridled as it is methodical. Just how that makes sense is difficult to explicate, but a cursory eye test should tell you all you need to know.
Carter’s ball-hawking at the point of attack is reminiscent of guards like Eric Bledsoe and Fred VanVleet, who make a living on that end of the floor with a tireless work ethic that offsets their lack of size. He covers ball-handlers in the pick-and-roll for 53.3 percent of his defensive assignments, and the results should speak for themselves.
To put his effort on that end into perspective, he also averages the same defensive loose balls recovered per 36 as names like Patrick Beverley and his teammate Jrue Holiday.
The advanced statistics capture the effect of his efforts quite well. According to PBP Stats, when Jevon Carter is on the floor, the Bucks have held opposing scorers to 114.1 points per 100 possessions. The opposing team also shoots 4.2 percentage points less with Carter playing, according to Cleaning the Glass, putting him in the 94th percentile in that statistic among players in his position. When he’s off the floor, the team’s defensive rating sinks down to 117.5. Though the team’s offensive rating decreases by a point when he plays, he’s still a net plus-6.8 in his 261 minutes for Milwaukee thus far.
He’s also very fundamentally sound, and he makes it glaringly clear he isn’t just an effort player. He knows to position himself well to deny the pass to Raul Neto twice in a row here in the first clip. When Neto cuts into the lane, he fronts him to discourage the pass, then he stays behind him once he recognizes Daniel Gafford readying up for the handoff. It’s not just his energy but his positioning that gets him the easy steal here without fouling.
According to his matchup data, Carter has also held opposing guards to 79-of-188 (42.0 percent) field goal efficiency so far this season. It’s clear his lack of size isn’t a hindrance on defense as his maximum effort is able to alleviate this. In the next clip, the 6-foot-1 Carter is able to stay in front of the 6-foot-4 Jordan Clarkson in the isolation and then, later on, is even able to block him from behind. His timing and reflexes help him contest the shot perfectly to cause a miss. It’s the same story up against the 6-foot-6 Shai Gilgeous-Alexander: Carter shows he’s not just some pesky irritant; he’s also deceptively strong for his size and is able to hold his ground when staying in front of offensive players at the point of attack.
Carter’s floor-spacing makes him a net positive on the offensive end
Even through it all, his defense is only part of what has made him a special addition to the team. On the other end of the floor, Carter’s consistent floor-spacing and decisive shot-selection have made him a seamless fit for a team already trotting out at least one of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, and Holiday virtually at all times on offense.
In his past 15 games since signing with the Milwaukee Bucks, Jevon Carter has hit a whopping 57.6% from deep. Of note, he’s shot 6-of-8 and 5-of-8 in the left and right corners, respectively.
As a result, Jevon’s 160.8 points per 100 shot attempts through his 238 minutes and 15 games for the Bucks thus far are good for the 99th percentile in his position per Cleaning the Glass.
In these clips, it’s clear Jevon has a grasp on when to relocate from the corner to the wings or vice versa. He makes and receives the most passes to and from Khris Middleton and Giannis Antetokounmpo according to NBA.com/stats and it shows: Carter is clearly able to work around the inward gravity of the two Bucks stars to get himself open for good looks.
Jevon also enters the defending champion’s roster in a time when their tertiary ball-handler in George Hill is having a particularly off year. But Hill, who is shooting the second-worst mark of his career from distance with just 30.6 shooting, is in nearly all of the Bucks’ best lineups when it comes to defensive rating.
Carter is a rare breed that seems destined to be a Milwaukee Buck. Like the role players that came before him (think PJ Tucker and Bobby Portis), he sticks to his role and has learned to be a star within it. He doesn’t try to do too much, and instead gives each possession everything he has. Carter also gives the Bucks that same kind of competence on defense while giving them much more production on the offensive end.
At the same time, though, head coach Mike Budenholzer has shown he stays loyal to his role players. This is evidenced by his decision to start the hyper-defensive Wesley Matthews over the sharpshooting Grayson Allen, or when he earlier gave Jordan Nwora routine minutes and left DeAndre’ Bembry on the bench. And who could forget that stretch of games where he chose Thanasis Antetokounmpo over Torrey Craig?
For this writer, given Carter’s overall ability and contributions, he should absolutely get postseason minutes for the defending champions. His defensive chops and floor-spacing make him a prime candidate to play next to any one of Milwaukee’s big three. Unfortunately, with a shortened playoff rotation for the Bucks coupled with Budenholzer’s propensity to stick with his favorites, this may not be likely the deeper we get into the postseason. It remains to be seen whether he’ll get minutes against the Chicago Bulls, but that may be the prime determiner as to whether or not he plays moving forward.
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