Wendell Carter Jr. and Lauri Markkanen look to go together like peanut butter and jelly, or Joakim Noah and man-buns. Carter was billed as the safe pick in the top half of the lottery, but his selection and outstanding summer league play now makes it look like the Bulls have the outline of their likely frontcourt of the future.
How these two grow together will be one of the most important storylines of the upcoming season. This post from Drew Favakeh of USA Today’s NBA Analysis Network attempts to provide a deeper understanding of how Carter Jr. can make Markkanen even better.
- Screen setting
- Spacing the floor
Last season, Chicago Bulls veteran center Robin Lopez unceremoniously made Markkanen’s offensive life easier by selflessly setting screen after screen to free up the young Fin for open shots. These good looks didn’t all come from the perimeter either.
Favakeh uses the below videos to demonstrate, where Lopez fills the role that Carter can likely take as soon as next season. Carter is also a good screener, and used to deferring through his experience at Duke, and he has already expressed excitement about doing so to free up Markkanen.
Where Carter can add a new dimension to the offense is by serving as a big man who can come out to the high post or pass out of a post-up with precision accuracy. Last season, the Chicago Bulls had a difficult time exploiting mismatches in the post because their entry passes were mostly miserable.
Carter’s 3 assists per 40 minutes at Duke were wound up in a box by Krzyzewski, who limited him to a 22.8% usage rate (light years below Bagley III and just ticks above Grayson Allen). Despite limited usage, the center was one of only two players to average 13.5 points, 9.1 rebounds, and 2.0 assists on 62.8% shooting last season.
With the addition of a capable big, Lauri Markkanen is relegated to secondary screener. The role better suits his game. Now, his focus is on lacerating damage as a floor-stretching weapon.
And perhaps the biggest upgrade that Carter Jr. can provide over Lopez (besides the fact that he is 11 years younger), is that the Duke product has more shooting range.
As the article notes, Lopez wasn’t a bad shooter, but his range didn’t extend out to the 3-point line to scare defenses into stretching out to stop him.
In an era of basketball where teams want shooting at all positions, the Bulls now potentially have two young big men whose shooting range extends out to the 3-point line. Carter’s defender won’t be able to help on his Finnish teammate if it means leaving Carter with an open shot, which should mean less attention going Markkanen’s way.
Whether it’s with Carter or with Lopez again, Lauri Markkanen should spend the majority of his minutes next season paired with a big man buddy that’s going to look out for the second year player’s best interests on offense. Carter can fill in as a facsimile to Lopez, potentially even improved, in a way that shoot-first big men like Bobby Portis and Nikola Mirotic couldn’t.
And that could make for a formula for an even better iteration of Markkanen next season.