Warriors Trade Retrospective: The Vince Carter trade

Warriors (Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images)
Warriors (Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images) /

Back on draft night in 1998, the Golden State Warriors selected future Hall of Famer Vince Carter, but then traded him to the Toronto Raptors.

More than once in his illustrious 22-season career, it appeared as if Vince Carter was destined to play for the Golden State Warriors.

The first time the Warriors flirted with the idea was on draft day way back in 1998 when the team used the fifth overall pick to select the University of North Carolina product.

Though, it was a short-lived marriage. The Warriors and Toronto Raptors agreed to a trade that sent Carter to Toronto in exchange for college teammate Antawn Jamison.

In recent years, the Warriors had again toyed with the idea of recruiting the 43-year-old to bolster the bench, but the timing never was right. Carter decided to spend his last two seasons in a leadership role with the Atlanta Hawks.

It has been over 20 years since the Warriors decided to trade away the shooting guard on draft night. Carter has been going strong as an NBA player since 1998, but he may have appeared on the court for the final time due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

For the time being, Carter is at peace with how the end of his career has transpired as he tells Chris Kirschner of The Athletic.

"“This was fun. If it ended today, this day and the end of the season with these last 16 games will be talked about for a very long time. That’s something I’ll always remember. At least I scored my last basket. It’s a weird but cool memory…. If this is really it, I thank everyone for your love and support for all these years.”"

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Carter’s Hall of Fame credentials have never been in doubt. It was only a matter of when the veteran guard decided to hang up his sneakers.

How did the Warriors fare in their decision to trade Carter?

There is no doubt the Raptors got the better end of the deal with Carter, but Jamison turned out a nice career with the Warriors as well.

Golden State never had quality rosters during Jamison’s tenure, but that did not stop the forward from putting up impressive numbers. Perhaps, the larger issue with these rosters was that Jamison was the primary option, and sometimes the only option, on offense.

Across six seasons, the University of North Carolina product posted 20.2 PPG and 7.5 RPG while shooting 45 percent from the field.

Golden State never won more than 38 games in any of these six seasons, so Jamison’s chances of making the All-Star team were always remote. However, the 6-foot-8 forward established himself as one of the premier players while to wear a Warriors jersey.

The Warriors nearly snuck into the playoffs in Jamison’s final season with the team. However, the positive momentum the team was making with Jamison on the roster ended abruptly following the 2003 season.

Jamison was traded to the Dallas Mavericks along with Danny Fortson, Chris Mills, and Jiri Welsch in a trade that brought back a package of players headlined by Nick Van Exel.

The forward only spent one season with Dallas before being shipped to the Washington Wizards. With Washington, Jamison finally got some recognition as he was twice selected to the Eastern Conference All-Star team.

Unlike Carter, Jamison’s time on an NBA court did not span 22 seasons. He finished his career following the 2013-2014 season with the Los Angeles Clippers where he appeared sparingly as a reserve player.

The returns from that draft-day trade were much more favorable for the Raptors. While wearing a Raptors uniform, Carter posted 23.4 PPG, 5.2 RBP, and 3.9 APG while shooting 46 percent from the field.

These numbers quickly established Carter as one of the top players in the NBA. In parts of seven seasons with Toronto, Carter was elected to the Eastern Conference All-Star team six times. In addition to this, the Raptors made the playoffs in all six seasons that Carter finished with the team.

The 6-foot-6 forward was traded in the midst of his seventh season with the Raptors to the New Jersey Nets in a move that brought a package of players headlined by Alonzo Mourning.

Would the Warriors have reached the playoffs as frequently as the Raptors did had they held on to Vince Carter? The answer is complicated.

For his first three seasons in Toronto, Carter did share the court with Tracy McGrady, so the team often had multiple All-Stars on the court at the same time.

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With that being said, the Toronto rosters during the Carter era never featured much depth. Oftentimes, they brought in recognizable names at the end of their respective careers to supplement the roster.

On a different note, the Warriors played in a much stronger conference that featured two powerhouses in the Los Angeles Lakers and San Antonio Spurs during Carter’s time with the Raptors.

It seems likely the Warriors would have been better off keeping Carter. However, the rest of the roster behind would have left much to be desired.

They may have even snuck into the playoffs as a low seed.

Clearly trading away Carter on draft day was the wrong move. After 22 seasons, the veteran guard may have appeared on the court for the last time while outlasting his North Carolina teammate and draft day trade partner Antawn Jamison by a solid seven seasons.

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The Warriors received a good player in Jamison, but the decision to trade Carter remains one of the bigger what-if scenarios in Warriors history.