Wendell Carter Jr. wasn’t what the Chicago Bulls had in mind after tanking an entire season away, but he’s proving himself so far in the NBA Summer League.
In his first game, Carter scored 16 points, grabbed nine rebounds, to go along with five blocks and two steals. Oh yeah, he hit two three-pointers as well. On Sunday against the Lakers, he was even more impressive. He scored nine points, but also had seven rebounds and four blocked shots.
Head coach Fred Hoiberg is taking notice.
“He’s been excellent,” Hoiberg said. “Ever since we started our minicamp, you can see the intensity he plays with, does whatever it takes to help a teammate and he’s had great experience so far going up against some experienced NBA players.”
Over the years the Bulls have had a hard time finding versatile players. Carter is just that. He is a dominant rim protector, while also having the skills and knowledge to be effective on offense. His ability as a shooter backs up that statement.
Wendell Carter Jr showing far more switch-ability than anticipated. A handful of nice possessions guarding the perimeter. Credit his work ethic and improving fundamentals. Has done an outstanding job of getting in the best shape of his young career.
— Mike Schmitz (@Mike_Schmitz) July 10, 2018
Again, Hoiberg and the rest of the Bulls’ staff has recognized this.
“I love his versatility, he’s a modern-day big, he makes good passes, and he’s good in the pocket which is such an important skill in today’s game.”
Carter put his versatility on display on Tuesday night against the Hawks. There were several occasions where Carter Jr. had to guard Trae Young. He did a solid job.
In this game, Carter has stepped into a 3-pointer as trail man on break and also ably defended Trae Young when switched onto him in space.
Dare those transcend the "it's only summer league" qualifier?
— K.C. Johnson (@KCJHoop) July 10, 2018
Tuesday night’s game was another solid outing for Carter, who finished with 23 points, six rebounds, and two blocked shots. Still, the rookie wasn’t satisfied.
“It’s no good if I play well and we lose,” Carter said. “I don’t like to look at my own stats.”
For a second there, I forgot Carter was a 19-year-old kid. He did have a good game, but Carter understands that there is still work to be done.
“I have to get better,” said Carter. He was referring to guarding smaller players on defense.
“There are sometimes I could have done a better job. Our scouting report said to get him off the 3-point line, which I tried to do but still stay in front of him. A couple of times he got by me. It’s something I’m going to work on. As soon as this summer league is over, I’m going to get my feet quicker to stay in front of these guards.”
It’s early, but this kid out of Duke gets it. He is doing and saying things of a player that has been in the league for three years. Again, he is 19. That is why having a veteran like Robin Lopez to groom Carter is huge.
It seems like Carter is really looking forward to playing with the 30-year-old center.
“Robin is someone I’m definitely going to be looking up to a lot, so it was great to meet him,” Carter said. “He can help me with just learning how to be a pro, on and off the court. Learn how to keep the tunnel vision going, knowing all the distractions are going to come.”
The rookie already has a ton of respect for Lopez, who should be on the Bulls’ roster until at least the trade deadline.
“He’s such a solid pro,” Carter said. “That’s why I’m excited to learn from him.”
So far, Carter has proven to be a solid pro in his young NBA career. Time will tell but dare I say Gar Forman and John Paxson got it right…for the second year in a row.
Follow Nick on Twitter:@TLS_Petrusevski–Feature Photo Credit: NBA.com