While the Bulls have often been linked to either Mikal Bridges or Michael Porter Jr. at the forward spot with the seventh pick in the draft, Wendell Carter Jr. could prove to be an enticing option to man the paint. The big man from Duke stands six-feet-ten inches tall and weighs in at 259 pounds.
He had an impressive year for the Blue Devils, averaging 13.5 points, 9.1 rebounds, and 2.1 blocks in 26.9 minutes of playtime, all while playing alongside likely top-three pick and fellow big man Marvin Bagley III. Carter told reporters about his role with Bagley “Bagley is a phenomenal player. He came into college basketball and did what he was supposed to do,” Carter said. “My role changed a little bit. But I’m a winner. Whatever situation I come into, I automatically buy in. The coaches just want to win. And I want to win too. So whatever they ask me to do, if it’s just rebounding and blocking shots and setting good picks, I’m willing to do that just to win.”
Carter Jr. attended Pace Academy in Atlanta, Georgia. As a senior, he logged 22.7 points, 15.5 rebounds, and 5.8 blocks, and led the team to a state championship. This dominant performance earned him a ranking of No. 5 on ESPN’s Top 100 recruiting list for the Class of 2017.
In his only season at Duke, Carter illustrated his versatility with his shot-blocking prowess, dominance in the post, and decent shooting touch for a player his size. Had he not been playing with athletic freak Marvin Bagley, Carter Jr. likely would have averaged more rebounds as well.
Shooting a solid 56.1% from the field on an average of 8.6 attempts, Carter also demonstrated his efficiency around the rim. On a very limited 46 three-point attempts over the course of the season, Carter was able to convert 41.3% of them, an above-average stat for any player. Additionally, he shot 73.8% from the foul line, notably higher than Bagley’s 62.7%.
As mentioned before, the most exciting part of Carter’s game is his versatility. For whichever team that drafts him, he will be able to offer a multitude of skills on both ends of the floor. It’s this versatility that will most likely result in Carter landing on a team within the top 10.
Wendell Carter’s main source of offensive production comes from points in the paint, where he uses his soft touch and finesse in the post to score. In the clip below, Carter Jr. uses a beautiful up and under move to convert the tough and-one layup.
While he may be an effective scorer in the post, Carter’s high basketball IQ helps him to make the right play at the right time. The clip below displays Carter’s post passing ability, as he passes out of the incoming Kansas’ double team to wide-open teammate Trevon Duval.
His intelligence on the court extends beyond just passing, as Carter also moves well without the ball to get to the right spot. His versatility allows a team to stretch the floor with him, as he can knock down an open midrange or three-pointer. Carter Jr. does a fantastic job of recognizing when his defenders are sagging off and capitalizes immediately, as seen in the video below.
Though the previous video clip and his 41.3% three-point field goal percentage may make him seem reliable, there are still some problem areas with Carter’s shooting mechanics. The first play against Clemson highlights the low arc on Carter’s shot. In the NBA, that low arc will make his shot attempt easy to block or at least contest heavily. Additionally, the distance to the basket from NBA three-point range is an extra three feet compared to the NCAA.
When pressure is applied, Carter also seems to rush his shot, rather than set his feet and then fire. Carter Jr. could limit himself to solely midrange jumpers, but realistically, he will need to develop his three-point jumper to truly maintain his multifaceted repertoire.
On defense, Wendell Carter Jr. is a force to be reckoned with, as seen through him averaging more than two blocks a game this season. His 7’3″ wingspan should serve him well in the NBA, where he will be holding down the paint. In the clip below, Carter rotates over and elevates quickly to prevent an easy two for Rhode Island in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
While his post and paint defense may be NBA-ready, Carter’s perimeter defense and ability to keep his man in front of him still needs some work.
As soon as Carter was switched onto the smaller, more agile guard, he was unable to stay with him and gave up an easy basket. This is especially problematic due to the pick and roll being extremely prominent nowadays in the NBA. Carter will have to ensure that he will not get passed up every time he switches onto the ballhandler in order to be successful.
Furthermore, Carter will need to improve on his tendency to fall into foul trouble. Over the course of the season, he averaged 2.8 personal fouls per game. While aggressiveness on defense cannot be considered undesirable, no team wants a player that is constantly at a risk of fouling out.
These are obviously skills to develop long-term, but as of right now, it seems Carter’s main selling points are his polish in the post, basketball IQ, and post defense. That should be enough for a team to pick him up early on.
While he may be a lock to go in the top 10, there is a high chance Wendell Carter Jr. could still be available for the Bulls at pick number seven. He could fit in nicely alongside Lauri Markkanen; the two would make one of the most multi-talented frontcourt duos in the NBA. Commenting on the possibility of a Markkanen-Carter combo, Carter Jr. sees an opportunity for a huge amount of success.
“[He’s a] great player,” Carter said. “I was just thinking him and me together playing on the court would be — it’d be definitely a killer.”
Wendell Carter Jr. could prove to be just what the Bulls need in a center, especially if Gar Forman and John Paxson decide to draft small forward Chandler Hutchison with pick number 22. Carter Jr. has drawn comparisons to a young Al Horford, which bodes well for the Bulls if they decide to draft Carter. Horford’s versatility has been an integral part of the Celtics’ success; Carter Jr. has the potential to play that same role for the Bulls.
Ultimately, this year’s draft presents an opportunity for Chicago to flesh out their roster at the 5 spot. If that is the path the front office selects, Wendell Carter Jr. is the best man for the job.
Follow Nikhil on Twitter: @nikhilsriram14
Feature Photo Credit: Duke Basketball Report