Vince Carter, UNC Vs. Grant Hill, Duke- Who'd Win Playing One-On-One?

Pat MixonSenior Analyst IMarch 17, 2010

5 Dec 1997:  Guard Vince Carter of the North Carolina Tar Heels celebrates during a game against the Tennessee at Chattanooga Moccasins during the Harus Teeter Pepsi Challenge at the Charlotte Coliseum in Charlotte, North Carolina.  North Carolina won the
Craig Jones/Getty Images

Winner’s Outs Month of March Madness continues with another Battle of College Legends.  We pit Duke’s Grant Hill versus North Carolina’s Vince Carter.  I call this the Battle of Tobacco Road perimeter players.  We also want to give props to Adam Biggers of the Bleacher Report for suggesting this stellar matchup.

Let's settle this once and for all.  Please remember, this is not a team matchup but one on one, in the ultimate legend fantasy basketball game.  

Scouting Report

Our Scouting Report on both players will address how they would matchup in a one on one game.  Let's start with Hill.

Grant Hill was the small forward on the Duke Blue Devil juggernaut at the beginning of the 1990’s.  His college career, based strictly on winning, holds up against some of the best players at his position.  Grant possessed a wealth of talent, much of which did not come out until his NBA career.  He was skilled on both ends of the court and was a great team player, both on and off the court.  Grant provided much of the energy and effort that doesn’t always show up on a stat sheet to those Duke teams.  He was competitive and continued to work on his game.  The college version of Grant was nothing compared to the NBA version.  Most were surprised as his NBA career got really going, when he became an All-Star, much of the buzz and questions were “where was this player at Duke?”  Our feeling is simply that Grant was overshadowed by Christian Laettner, Bobby Hurley and company. It wasn’t that Grant didn’t have most of the skills and moves he showed in the NBA, it was that he didn’t get the touches to display them in college.  Sure, he really had a strong work ethic and improved greatly on his shooting, but most of the explosiveness he brought in the pro game he had in college.  But, as usual, this is a College Legend Battle, so we’ll only keep the college version of Grant Hill in mind.

Offensively, Grant could take players off the dribble, either hand.  He had an explosive first step and could get to the cup and once there, he could finish.  He was a fantastic leaper and used both hands well.  He could score occasionally inside, due to his quickness and leaping ability but primarily, he was a face up player.  His outside shooting was strong, from long distance even, and his mid-range game was excellent (he would go on to exploit this area in the NBA massively.)  Grant had a consistent mid-range jumper in college, it just didn’t get used that much.  In a one on one battle, he’d use it extensively.

For Duke, defensive and effort were where Grant excelled and were his primary roles.  He was an incredible on the ball defender-- was Duke’s primary ball stopper.  His size combined with his talent made him a difficult player to score on.  Add in the Duke fundamentals he was taught, and Grant wasn’t missing anything defensively.  He could guard smaller, quicker players quite easily and he could handle larger players due to his height and leaping ability.  His only real weakness was that he didn’t weigh as much as he did in the NBA, so he could get pushed around in the paint, as he was rather of slight of build in college.

Vince Carter was a diamond in the rough compared to what he became in the NBA.  He showed flashes of all is unstoppable offensive skills in college, but both by design (i.e. Playing in the team concept of North Carolina) and not having refined all areas of his game, Carter was more raw talent than all-star.  But, that is not completely fair, because the college version of Carter could score and in an assortment of ways.  Sure, he had to deal with the pressure of being a “high fly act” at UNC in the footsteps of Michael Jordan, so he had to live up to pressures that other players at other schools simply never had to deal with.  But Carter handled them and fit well into the UNC system.

Offensively, Carter was only a piece of the UNC puzzle.  He started his career under the great Dean Smith and ended it with Coach Bill Guthridge.  Carter had to share the spotlight with another player who went on to an excellent NBA career in Antwan Jamison.  Carter, of course, could soar.  He was a fantastic leaper and finisher.  Like MJ, Carter was creative in the air and could use both hands effectively.  He was skilled off the dribble and possessed a deadly first step.  He’d blow by most perimeter defenders easily.  Zones, the nemesis of many one on one great college players, was a different story for Carter.  During his UNC years, Carter continued to develop his shooting range.  While not a great shooter from distance in college, Carter put the work in and became a solid and reliable shooter from 17-18 feet.  This only added to his offensive game, because he loved to take the ball to the rim and work inside.  Being a UNC product, Carter possessed solid fundamentals and good footwork and, therefore, could score in the post, at least against opposing guards.  

On defensive, Carter’s talent allowed him to garner steals, play strong on the ball defensive, and get after it against players in the paint.  Because of both his quickness and leaping ability, he made it seriously hard on smaller opposing players.  He could stick with guards and alter or block many shots.  Finally, because of his size and solid strength, he could hold his own down on the block.  Carter’s only real weakness was, if you can even go this direction, was his non-competitiveness.  Carter sometimes played too passive, not really getting after it, not really displaying the drive and killer instinct that everyone wanted from him and that players like MJ, Kobe, Magic all possessed.  

The Matchup

Carter is going to try to blow by Hill and he might.  But, not as often as you think.  Hill is too quick and matches up too well to Carter.  This is the one player that really is going to give Carter trouble.  Carter will drive hard and get to the rim. But, he’s not going to do it uncontested.  Hill will be right there.  The Duke player had height, speed, leaping ability, discipline, and the most important thing, desire.  Hill never quit and always worked hard.  He did it in college, in the NBA, after brutal foot injuries, and now in the late stages of his NBA career, he is still in amazing shape and brining it every night for Phoenix.  Carter is going to run up against that and, while no one can dispute Carter as an offensive talent, his will and desire are questionable.  Hill will match Carter step for step and force the UNC player into taking difficult shots.  This will create misses.  And, Hill will capitalize.  

While we didn’t see the significant one on one game Hill really possessed until he got to the NBA, he showed flashes at Duke.  One on one against Carter, he’ll get it going and effectively.  Besides almost equal physical talent as Carter, Hill was such a worker.  And, he was a very smart player.  His basketball IQ was off the chart.  Carter is prone to taking tough shots and Hill will force him into those.  Hill will get the memo and use the scouting report against Carter to the max.  Hill will take it to the rim, as his first step isn’t quite that of Carter’s but it is enough against Carter playing defense.  The college version of Carter was an adequate defender, unless he put his mind into it and he then was excellent.  He’ll rise to the challenge Hill presents so Carter will stick with Hill.  But Hill will be able to score going to the basket.  That will setup his outside game and, apples to apples, skills against skills, Hill was a better shooter in college than Carter.  Not only was that his primary role in the Duke offense (to hit the open shot from Hurley penetrations or Laettner passes), but Hill was very good at it and improved every year.  He also possessed a strong mid-range game that will only complement his shooting from distance and driving ability.  That will keep Carter seriously off balance.

In my opinion, neither player can start missing shots because on the defensive side, I don’t feel either player will stop the other well.  Carter, in particular, will struggle more against Hill on defensive than vice versa.  Hill will be able to cover Carter.  I’m not saying that Carter won’t score, and he will, but the shots will be tough and contested.  Carter isn’t going to juke Hill out of the building nor out of his way.  Any move Carter makes, Hill will be right there.  But great offense always trumps great defense, so Carter will score.  But, so will Hill.  And, I don’t feel Carter sticks with Hill as much.  Once Hill establishes some drives, both right and left (he could go to the rim with either hand), Carter is going to be in some trouble.  That's because Hill will take some outside shots, primarily his mid-range game but also possibly some long distance ones too.  

So, I say again, neither guy will want to miss.  For Carter, that means drives to the basket on every possessions, making sure to finish no matter how heavily contested by Hill.  Nothing weak at the rim or Hill will get the rebound.  For Hill, it means establishing the dribble drive game so he can open up to his shooting prowess and keep Carter completely off balance.  Lastly, I don’t see either player doing any real damage in the post up game, as neither player had extensive moves in the paint that the other wouldn’t be able to defend.  They matchup too well both physically and in skill set for either player to work the other down low.  This will be a face up battle.

The way I see the matchup going is that I think Carter will score but the shots will be tough. He’ll miss a few.  Hill, on the other hand, will get to the rim and score and that will open up his outside game.  He will make some jumpers but not all of them.  That will give the ball back to Carter who will go back to his high fly, quick first step game plan.  If Carter can be super disciplined with going to the rim and not taking a single outside shot, he’ll really have an opportunity to win this matchup.  I just don’t feel his outside shot, which will be contested by Hill, is that good.  Carter could hit an open jumper no problem, but Hill won't give him many, if any, of those.  Carter must bring his A game and desire to compete against Hill or he will be in trouble.

The battle won’t seesaw as much as the Scouting Report above leads us to believe.  I think Carter will start off scoring but the shots he makes will be hard.  He’ll break out to say a 4 to 0 lead but then Hill will get the ball back on a Carter a razzle dazzle, hang too long, double pump miss in the lane.  Hill will then go to his finesse game, drive on Carter, spin and score.  He’ll make two in a row to bring the score 2 to 4.  Then, Hill will fake a hard drive and nail a mid-range jumper to get within one.  He’ll then score again on a drive, another jumper, a short banker, and then make a long distance shot when Carter’s D sags. Hill possesses the one thing that separates him from Carter and that is drive and desire.  Also, Hill will learn quickly how to play Carter by applying the scouting report and his game plan on D to the letter.  Hill will run out to a 7 to 4 lead and that will get in Carter’s head.  Carter will get the ball back on a Hill jumper that misses and Carter will score again, but not easily.  He’ll make another layup, then a spin for a dunk, then a short floater over Hill’s fingertips, but then miss on another short jumper that he both settles for and Hill contests.  That'll leave the score at 7 to 7 and then from there, Hill will close it out.  He’ll score again on a drive in the lane.  He’ll get another bucket on a pump fake for a short 12 footer off the glass.  He’ll then close the battle out with a fake stab drive and drain a three-pointer for the last two points.

In my opinion, Hill takes this matchup that ends up not as close as we expected due to Hill’s surprising game and his strong discipline and drive that Carter fails to match.  

Final Score:  Hill- 11; Carter- 7

Let the Debate Begin!! 

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