The NBA All-Rookie teams were announced yesterday, and predictably after missing half of the season the Bulls’ Wendell Carter Jr. didn’t make first or second team.
But despite him playing in only 44 games, there was a lot to like from Carter. His basketball IQ, passing, and defense were all positives, especially from a 19-year-old. The box score numbers from his inaugural season weren’t eye-popping but solid nonetheless. He averaged 10.3 points, 7 rebounds, and 1.8 assists per game while maintaining a defensive box plus/minus score of 1.8.
However, it doesn’t mean there weren’t any disappointments in his game. The one area where Carter Jr. really struggled was scoring the ball, particularly through jump shots. He only made 35.7% of his jumpers last year and it got worse the further he stepped back from the paint, going 18.8% on three-pointers last year.
Carter he showed in college that he is a much better shooter than that; it was the lack of attempts itself.
He needs to become more assertive in the offense in finding his own shot and taking them. There were quite a few times during the year where Carter Jr. would get the ball and wouldn’t even turn towards the basket.
Carter looks totally out of sync tonight offensively. Another play where he's not even looking at the basket. pic.twitter.com/EKzYUI4NfY— Stephen Noh (@StephNoh) December 20, 2018
These two plays are something you don’t want to see. WCJ had the ball with space in two separate occasions and on both of those sequences, he was looking to pass the entire time. While it’s good that Carter Jr. isn’t forcing bad shots and wasting possessions, he needs to know when shooting is the best option. This especially applies to him and shooting three-pointers. Carter Jr. only averaged 1.4 three-point attempts per 100 possessions this past season and for a guy who shot 41.3% from three at Duke, this number needs to be a lot higher.
Part of it is also on the Bulls themselves in not drawing up enough plays for Carter Jr. to get open for a look from three. Chicago shouldn’t run WCJ off screens like they do for Lauri Markkanen but they can set up plays for him to get open in the corner or even have him pop out when he’s the roll man.
Here, WCJ is able to grab the offensive rebound and immediately kicks it out to Justin Holiday. When Holiday drives left, Carter Jr. comes over and sets a screen on Alonzo Trier. He then pops out a bit past the three-point line when Holiday looks back and spots him open. WCJ gets the pass and steps into an easy three-pointer. His release is smooth and quick enough to make it not an easy block for the defender.
Along with the pick and roll, the Bulls can use Markkanen as a decoy to draw in the defense and have WCJ dash to either of the corners for a three-point attempt.
While he doesn’t need to take as many as someone like Brook Lopez does for Milwaukee, it’s not unreasonable to ask WCJ to shoot around 3-4 times from three per game. Alongside Markkanen, both of the Bulls big men are threats from deep if given the chance. In today’s NBA, it’s more beneficial to have more shooters all over the court. With a guy like Zach LaVine as your main initiator on offense, there are a ton of catch and shoot opportunities available for the other four players on the court when LaVine draws the defense.
It’s both on Carter and the coaching staff to make sure he gets enough three-point attempts to fit within Chicago’s offense. WCJ looks capable from distance, it would be a hindrance to Chicago’s offense if they didn’t utilize it a little bit more. Improving his volume from deep certainly add to Carter Jr.’s offensive versatility and make him an even more valuable player to the Bulls than he already is.