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An analytical deep dive into Wendell Carter Jr’s rookie season

remember WCJ?

Phoenix Suns v Chicago Bulls Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Wendell Carter Jr.’s injury-shortened season isn’t going to send him home with a Rookie of the Year Award, or even a selection to the ‘rising stars’ game during All-Star Weekend.

But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a successful inaugural NBA season for the 19 year old Duke product. Over at (via), Raymond Simms attempted to contextualize just how successful of a rookie season it was for Carter.

Leading up to draft night, Carter drew comparisons to Boston Celtics star Al Horford as a defensive-minded, swiss army knife of a player who will be a solid pro in this league for years to come. On draft night, ESPN analyst Chauncey Billups compared him to Carlos Boozer much to the chagrin of many Bulls fans.

Through one NBA season, the comparisons have proven accurate. Note that he was about two years younger his rookie season than both Horford and Boozer.

Simms also notes how similar Carter’s rookie season was to Mason Plumlee’s 2017-2018 campaign. While Plumlee isn’t a star, his profile as a solid, long-time pro is exactly what many project. Some other player’s seasons that felt compared favorably to Carter’s rookie season were Tim Duncan’s 2014-2015 season, Jordan Bell’s 2017-2018 season, and Richaun Holmes 2017-2018 season among others.

The most interesting part of the article was the tracking data Simms was able to provide.

Some other notes in this piece from Simms:

  • Chicago Bulls head coach Jim Boylen stunted Carter’s maturation as a passer.

Wendell Carter also came into the league with above-average passing ability for a big. While original head coach Fred Hoiberg sought to use this, the skill was less-utilized under successor Jim Boylen. Under Hoiberg, Carter’s 13.7 assist percentage was 12th-best among centers that played at least 15 minutes per game. That percentage dropped to 9.5 percent under Boylen, 31st under the same criteria.

  • Simms noted that Carter was awful as a post player on both ends of the floor this season, producing -31.5 created points over expectation offensively and giving up 12 created points over expectation defensively in the post. His perpetual foul trouble partly arose from his ineffective post defense.
  • The peripherals were there for Carter to carry over 3-point shooting success in college to the NBA. On a low volume, he shot 3-point field goals at a 41.3 percent clip at Duke. He was a 73.8 percent free-throw shooter. There wasn’t and still isn’t anything noticeably unsightly about his shooting mechanics. Yet, Carter shot the ball at an 18.8 percent clip from long range this season, netting just six 3-pointers all season. Both the shooting percentage and the volume of attempts were disappointing, and Simms also notes that Boylen has further compacted Carter’s shooting range compared to where he was allowed to shoot under former head coach Fred Hoiberg (obviously that makes sense).