There are few better praises than “he’s a dog” coming from Jrue Holiday. Holiday went a step farther when praising teammate Jevon Carter, saying, “He’s even more of a hound than I am.”
No matter who it is, Holiday vowed to pursue you. “He’s one of those vicious dogs, so you should never be on the side of the gate where he is. He won’t back down for anyone, regardless of who it is. And you are aware that I respect someone like you.”
After being an unheralded three-star recruit, Carter used that mentality to help West Virginia win the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year award and get him into the league. But after being selected in the second round in 2018, he spent his first four seasons with four different organizations. He has started 21 games for a title challenger as of Year 5. Khris Middleton and Pat Connaughton’s injuries created the opportunity, but Carter grasped it by using all of his willpower. He ties himself to the opposition point guard on every defensive possession and pursues him full-court as hard as the rules will allow.
Carter is to the front line of the Bucks’ defense what Brook Lopez is to the back line. Giannis Antetokounmpo claimed that when his teammates witness him taking on a problem head-on and putting his body on the line, “the rest of us do the same.”
Carter remarked, “I just want to make people uncomfortable. “I tend to achieve better when I feel like I’m making people uncomfortable. I simply follow that recipe.”
Carter stands apart in a field filled with players that are very competitive. J.B. Bickerstaff, the head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers, remembers his pre-draft practice like it was yesterday. He coached him during his rookie season with the Memphis Grizzlies.
Bickerstaff remarked, “When he stepped on the floor, you watched him and you knew he would always overachieve. “He found a way to win every drill we did, whether it was a one-on-one contest, a two-on-two contest, or something else entirely. Although he lacked the greatest talent, skill, or whatever else it was, as you observed him, you could see his persistence and desire to find a solution.
“We walked away from that meeting knowing that no matter what standard you set for him, he would find a way to surpass it. He has demonstrated that to be who he is with time and opportunity.”
After being traded by Memphis to Phoenix, where he played well enough to earn a three-year, $11.5 million contract in the 2020 offseason, Carter spent his first season between the Grizzlies and their G League club. Carter saw team success with the Suns, but he didn’t participate in any of the Finals games and was later moved to Brooklyn.
The Nets staked that the long-distance shooting Carter shown in sporadic attempts in Phoenix, where he shot 39.7 percent on 297 total three-pointers, was genuine. However, Carter was unable to score in the Big Apple. He was instantly snatched up by the Bucks after they waived him in order to sign Goran Dragic, providing him yet another opportunity to contribute to a team with championship hopes.
Carter has taken advantage of it, in part because he has improved his shot-making consistency; this season, he has made a career-high 3.7 3-pointers per game. The Bucks can keep him on the court to capitalize on his strongest suit: defense thanks to his consistent spot-up shooting around Antetokounmpo (he’s made 45.8 percent of his wide-open tries).
When Carter steals the ball or shocks an opponent with a block, his impact is clear. He ranks second on the Bucks in steals per game with 1.4 and third in blocks per game with 0.7. But more frequently than not, he executes tiny, valuable, and simple plays that stack up over the course of a game. No measurement can adequately express the impact of Carter’s full-court pressure on the opposition point guard forcing him to pass the ball to another player to start the offense.
Grayson Allen remarked, “When you make someone else bring the ball up the court, they’re out of sorts. “They feel a little more uneasy because they aren’t in their typical play locations. Or, if he recovers the ball, their play will begin with 14, 15, rather than 20 seconds remaining after they just get the ball in and walk it up. They must get a shot up without engaging in another action and must iso ball because they don’t have time if you reject their first action.”
On a defensive possession, Carter stated his primary objective is to induce a miss. Even though he might not always be given credit when that occurs, his dedication to bugging opponents usually pays off. At the end of the game, we have a chance to win because it exhausts them for four quarters, according to Holiday. Donovan Mitchell, a star player for the Cleveland Cavaliers, shot 6-for-10 from the field in the first half of their game against the Bucks on November 16 before shooting 1-for-9 in the second.
After the Bucks’ 113-98 victory, Mitchell remarked, “You know he’s always there, you’ve got to keep an eye out for him.” “Since his time in West Virginia till today, he has always been that way with every team he has played for. He chooses his locations wisely and surely poses issues at the guard post.”
On October 29 at Milwaukee, the star player for the Atlanta Hawks, Trae Young, shot 6-of-9 in the opening frame before finishing the game with a 9-of-23 clip. The same thing happened on November 4 against Milwaukee, when D’Angelo Russell had a 3-for-8 first half and a 0-for-7 second half.
Carter has had a bit of a breakout season, but even when he started, he only took 7.9 shots per game. He is aware that his team depends on him to confidently take open 3-pointers, research his opponents’ patterns, and, in the words of Budenholzer, “bring an edge to us defensively.” Since his first NBA game, in which he guarded James Harden and Chris Paul and stopped one of Paul’s signature midrange jumpers, he has always believed he could accomplish this. If he comes off as unimpressed with himself, it’s because he has always known he was capable of it.Carter remarked, “After that game, I felt I belonged. Sincerity be damned, I just play the game whether they like me or not.
Carter regularly bemoaned that on-ball defenders “couldn’t touch guys” in the NBA as they can in college because doing so would result in them being called for “a lot of cheap fouls,” but in the interim, he had learned how to “not be too aggressive” while “still pressing and causing havoc.” The biggest difference between Carter then and Carter today, though, is that he has discovered his position after two trades and one outright release. In Milwaukee, he has access to not only the confidence and bravery necessary to guard stars and to stay alive in the NBA, but also the support of a franchise and, most importantly, his teammates. He is able to breathe out for the first time in his career.
Actually, it’s like taking a deep inhale, remarked Carter. “All I’ve wanted is for these men to have my back, and it allows me to play more freely. Basketball is a matter of rhythm and confidence. The more support you receive, the simpler your work will be.”