From Sam Vecenie of the Athletic
37. Wendell Carter Jr. | 6-10 center, 21 years old | Chicago Bulls | Contract: 2 years, $12.4 million, then restricted free agent in 2022 | PR: 30
Another player who is exceptionally difficult to rank, and in the case of Carter, it is due to factors outside of his control. I don’t think we have gotten a chance to see the best version of Carter in the NBA yet. In all three of his NBA seasons, he’s been dealt a relatively long-term injury. He played just 44 games as a rookie and 43 as a sophomore. He’s already missed 10 games this year due to a quad injury. On top of that, Carter was also very clearly held back in terms of skill set by former coach Jim Boylen. Boylen put him in a box and didn’t allow him to do anything other than set screens, crash the offensive glass and defend. That’s never really been the best way to use Carter, as his feet are nimble and his ball skills are dextrous in space. In the early going under Billy Donovan, we’ve already seen him play more in dribble handoffs and be utilized more as a short-roll weapon. He’s up at 2.4 assists per game and looks generally very competent when away from the rim, opening space for Chicago’s offense to operate a bit. After a really tough start to the year, he’s settled in and been more efficient as a finisher than ever.
There was a strange uprising early in the season from Bulls’ fans that Carter should be moved to the bench in favor of Daniel Gafford, and it was bizarre. It wholly neglects to understand the nuances of what Carter brings on defense and only looks at blocked shots from a value perspective. And this is even while acknowledging that Carter has struggled a bit early in the season to navigate his gaps and space in the new drop coverage scheme that Donovan and the coaching staff have implemented. In any situation not involving a ball screen, Carter is a smart and willing help defender who often hops into the right position and forces opposing teams into tougher choices. At the rim, opponents have only shot 53.7 percent against him so far this season because he’s great at establishing position and using his length to contest shots. Overall, he’s just a much more complete player than Gafford.
Still, Carter ends up falling here because we’re now at the point where he’s been hurt three times in the last three years and just can’t seem to stay on the court and establish the kind of momentum that allows him to keep improving with experience and continuity. Additionally, part of the projection for Carter long-term has been the development of a jump shot and the ability to potentially space the floor. I still have some faith that Carter could get there as a shooter, but this drop is certainly an acknowledgment that he doesn’t look particularly comfortable shooting from 3 yet even with an offseason to improve upon it. If the jumper doesn’t come, Carter’s overall offensive gifts are just a bit less interesting, and he’s more of a mid- to lower-tier starting center. Valuable, but not quite as valuable as starting perimeter players. Again, it’s another example where him potentially getting more comfortable with experience could give him a bit more confidence and freedom to be willing to shoot it. But alas, we’re going to have to wait a little while to see if that comes.
Hopefully a little insight on WCJ. I forgot how bad thier coach was.