Last season Lauri Markkanen posted the best rookie campaign from a Chicago Bulls player since Derrick Rose, yet he never was seriously in Rookie of the Year contention because of the magical seasons from rookie Donovan Mitchell and “rookie” Ben Simmons.
But after breaking out in the Summer League, Bulls rookie Wendell Carter Jr. is on track to outpace some projections during this upcoming rookie season. Good enough to seriously contend for Rookie of the Year? In “it’s the end of July” mode, both The Ringer and ESPN took some time to tackle that kind of question.
ESPN’s Kevin Pelton and Mike Schmitz explicitly tried to answer who will win ROY. Schmitz took Luka Doncic and Pelton took DeAndre Ayton.
As for Carter Jr., Schmitz has him at No. 4 while Pelton doesn’t have him on his list. Here’s Schmitz on Carter Jr.:
I do have concerns about his potential lack of Carter opportunities to score in Chicago, given some of his offense-first teammates. He’s not likely to put up points like an Ayton or Bagley, but his talent and potential for immediate impact, given his physical profile and all-around game are undeniable. We’ve been high on Carter since we first evaluated him as a 15-year-old, as we Carter ranked him fourth in our initial 2018 mock draft in October of 2016. He’s proved capable of scoring efficiently inside and outside, he protects the rim and he rebounds at a high level.
Even if the roster may seem a bit crowded, it would be wise of the Bulls to feed Carter as many minutes as possible, as he truly has a chance to be one of the Carter best prospects from the 2018 draft class.
Schmitz and Pelton point out that gaudy stats equate to votes which could benefit guys like Ayton, Trae Young, and Marvin Bagley III who may have some empty-calorie scoring on awful teams. Schmitz’s point about Carter’s ball-dominant teammates overshadowing him is also extremely important to note when considering his ROY chances.
In a slightly different exercise over at The Ringer, Kevin O’Connor and Jonathan Tjarks conduct a lottery redraft of the 2018 rookie class after considering their summer league performances. They came to the consensus that Carter Jr. should go No. 5, behind Jaren Jackson Jr., Doncic, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and Ayton.
Tjarks: Carter was very impressive in person. He dropped weight and looked faster than he had at Duke. That’s one of the biggest things with scouting big men: It’s almost like you are scouting offensive linemen, in that you have to figure out how their bodies will change over time.
O’Connor: Carter’s performance was encouraging for the reasons you mentioned. With a leaner body and improved conditioning, he was making high-impact individual defensive plays and moving laterally on the perimeter and blocking shots inside, in addition to his already excellent positional defense.
Later in this re-draft, with Carter off the board they have the Bulls taking Kevin Knox. The Kentucky product showed out in LVSL and fills a pressing positional need at wing. High upside, raw players like Knox aren’t what the Bulls usually go for in drafts so I for one would have been thrilled if the Bulls nabbed him at No. 7.
Lastly, over on The Dunc’d On Podcast Nate Duncan and Danny Leroux provide a rave review of Carter Jr. (begins at the 1:15:00 mark), although they end their segment on him by saying he doesn’t project as a superstar and that the Al Horford comparison is unfair to him given Horford’s borderline star status in the league.
For Carter, regardless if the ROY accolade let alone future superstardom is in his future, the Bulls have nabbed a guy who projects as a solid pro for many years to come and showed in the summer league that his upside may be way higher than anyone would have previously given him credit for.