Wendell Carter Jr. was the last of the five big men selected in the lottery of the 2018 NBA Draft, and some Bulls fans were concerned that his choice was too safe and lacking in upside for a team that could use high-upside talent.
It’s only Summer League, but Carter has taken Las Vegas by storm and has arguably been the best of those five bigs so far this summer. Through four games, he’s averaging 16.8 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.8 blocks while shooting a scorching 63 percent from the field. He has shown versatility and poise on both ends of the floor, with the ability to play inside and out.
Carter’s play has drawn rave reviews. ESPN’s Kevin Pelton says he looks like the best big in Vegas and has a game well-suited for the modern NBA. Our own Ricky O’Donnell says at SBNation.com he could be a star even without “an elite physical profile or go-to skill” because he’s just so good at everything. The Athletic’s Will Gottlieb and Darnell Mayberry both wrote glowing profiles in the last couple of days.
A key theme has been Carter’s terrific play on the defensive end. One of the biggest questions about him was a lack of mobility that could hinder him on switches and in pick-and-roll defense. The Bulls have been comfortable switching Carter against anybody in Vegas, and he has proven up to the task:
Thread on Wendell Carter Jr's great defense for the #Bulls last night, including a bunch of impressive switches onto Trae Young at the perimeter.— Tom West (@TomWestNBA) July 11, 2018
Like this. Carter switches onto Young, shifts his feet well to prevent a drive, pressures again outside, Young winds up with a miss. pic.twitter.com/qnQwmMg1Vo
Gottlieb talked to Fred Hoiberg and Jim Boylen about Carter’s defensive prowess, and they both talked about his instincts and knowledge of being in the right spots on the floor to make an impact:
“A big part of a young guy learning the NBA is having him learn the geography of the floor,” Boylen said. “His sense of that is already there. Once you know the geography of the floor, and what the action is, then we put the coverage to it.”
“His defensive instincts for a 19-year-old kid are off the charts,” Hoiberg said. “And with his length, he can make up for a mistake on the perimeter, he’s a guy that can cover the basket. Even on a couple plays where we switched, he was able to chase his man and block a shot from behind — that block he had in the first day where he pinned it against the glass coming from behind, with two hands, was an unbelievable play. Really impressive thing about him is, so many kids want to get on SportsCenter throwing the ball into the third row, he keeps his in the game, which fuels your fast break. That’s a great skill he’s mastered at a young age, the art of verticality.”
Offensively, Carter has hit jumpers out to the 3-point line, executed nifty post moves, finished with both hands and shown proficiency in pick-and-roll situations. His versatility was on display here:
So, looks like Wendell Carter Jr. is now the starting point guard of the Chicago Bulls. Sorry, Kris Dunn. Also of note: WCJ moves with such grace and fluidity out of the pick and roll. The touch on this little floater of his is impressive: pic.twitter.com/s6I7KE4B6e— Jackson Frank (@jackfrank_jjf) July 12, 2018
Carter has been consistently good throughout this entire Summer League. He hasn’t had a bad game and has made standout plays in each of them, even when the Bulls have struggled as a team:
Wendell with the sweet baseline turnaround J. He's been the consistent best rookie in Vegas. Reallly good to great in every game. Monster.— Cole Zwicker (@colezwicker) July 11, 2018
It’s easy to get carried away with Summer League takes, but it’s hard not to come away extremely impressed by everything Carter brings to the table:
Maybe this is hyperbole, but I don't think I've been so impressed with a one-and-done big at Vegas. Up there with KAT.— Michael Gallagher (@MikeSGallagher) July 12, 2018
Hopefully this translates to the big leagues. For now, we can enjoy Carter’s play as the Bulls look to win another Summer League title. By beating the Mavericks on Wednesday thanks in part to Carter’s 19 points and nine boards, the Bulls face the Pistons at 3 p.m. CT on Saturday in the next round of the tournament.