The hype around Carter Jr. isn’t reserved for Bulls fans though. NBA.com just published the results of its seventh-annual ‘Rookie Survey,’ and the Bulls new do it all big man garnered high praise from his peers. Specifically, for a question asking which rookie will have the best career, Carter Jr. came out on top with 13 percent of the vote.
Interestingly enough, Carter was rated decidedly worse in NBA Rookie of the Year predictions, in the “others receiving votes” category with at least eight guys receiving more votes than him.
Why is Carter Jr. so high in the “best career” category, but so low in the “Rookie of the Year” category? The Ringer’s NBA draft guru Jonathan Tjarks answered this in a roundabout way in an article Tuesday.
If Chicago keeps its young core together, Carter may never be a featured player on offense. Just like at Duke, he can excel in areas of the game where his teammates can’t. He can be valuable concentrating on defense and playing off of Dunn, LaVine, Parker, and Markkanen. The latter three, on the other hand, probably top out as average defenders. They need high usage rates to be effective players. Carter may have to space the floor and facilitate like he did in college, which would mean once again sacrificing his own stats for the good of the team.
So much of a big man’s success depends on the skill set and mentality of the players around him. Carter learned that lesson last season. In an interview with Vincent Goodwill of NBC Sports Chicago, his mother said Coach K lied during the recruitment process. Bagley wasn’t originally supposed to be in Durham. He re-classified in August and skipped his senior year of high school. Trent even told the media before the draft that he thought Carter would have been in the conversation for the no. 1 overall pick were it not for Bagley.
Since 2000, every Rookie of the Year winner has averaged at least 10 points per game en route to winning the award and only two (Malcolm Brogdon in 2016-2017 and Mike Miller in 2000-2001) have averaged less than 30 minutes per game of playing time. It isn’t an award usually won by guys who set screens the best. The Bulls have a lot of mouths to feed on offense, and a rookie center who can contribute outside of scoring isn’t going to be a top priority. While Carter will likely get lost way down in the scoring (and usage percentage) pecking order, guys like Trae Young, Collin Sexton, and Luka Doncic will immediately get the keys to the offense handed over to them.
Rather than an immediate star, Carter Jr. projects as more of a late bloomer as his role on the team expands year after year. Check out this comparison from Tjarks, a common one used in the pre-draft days:
Carter’s versatile game has drawn comparisons to Al Horford. The similarities don’t end there. Horford played in the shadow of another big man (Joakim Noah) in college, and he was drafted onto a young NBA team with a lot of talent. He started his career with the Hawks, deferring to Joe Johnson and Josh Smith, and didn’t have a usage rate above 20 until his sixth season in the league. One reason big men take longer to develop than guards is they have to establish themselves before their perimeter players trust them enough to give them the ball. Carter has a high floor. How close he gets to his ceiling depends on his teammates.
Horford never scaled the 20 point per game threshold for an entire season, but is a five-time All-Star due to his all-around contributions. If Carter’s career ends up like that, Bulls fans will have nothing to complain about.