Wendell Carter Jr. (And the Rest of the Bulls Bigs) Will Be the X-Factor This Season

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Wendell Carter Jr. (And the Rest of the Bulls Bigs) Will Be the X-Factor This Season

Chicago Bulls

The Chicago Bulls roster is an okay second date.

You were attracted enough the first time around – there was a new, positive vibe accompanied by a feeling of hope and wonder. Why not stick around and see what happens, right?

Well, now you’re on the second date … and the Bulls have something in their teeth. You notice a quirky laugh. Eh, maybe you could see it as cute down the road … but you definitely don’t right now. Great, now, you’re thinking long-term. You just don’t know if you can take this thing all the way. You’re still missing something. You need the X-factor.

The Athletic’s Zach Harper took a way-too-early look at the Eastern Conference playoff picture, and the Bulls ranked alongside the Atlanta Hawks in a category of their own, right behind more realistic playoff teams like the Detroit Pistons and Orlando Magic.

Like many NBA analysts, Harper was fond of what the Bulls did this offseason to improve their team. However Harper put a focus on what the biggest X-factor could be for this team down the road. And in his mind, it’s Wendell Carter Jr.

Carter’s health will no doubt impact the type of Bulls team we get during the 2019-20 season. We may have seen only 44 games from him last year, but his tantalizing upside is part of the reason why he could be such a big boost for this team.

Carter brought down 7.0 rebounds per game during his injury-shortened rookie campaign, which is something the team will certainly welcome with open arms after finishing 25th in the league in rebounding. In addition to his rebounding prowess, Carter possesses a solid shot and touch around the rim. Adding a player with quality rebounding skills with a hint of offensive upside to the Bulls’ frontcourt is quite intriguing. So while Carter is still one of the youngest players in the league, the untapped amount of seemingly endless potential could be realized if he can stay on the court long enough to reach it.

While Harper highlights Carter individually, I would go further to say anyone who suits up at center for the Bulls is the team’s true X-factor.

Carter simply can’t do it on his own, and when he isn’t on the court, the Bulls will need suitable players to keep up the intensity. When you consider the trouble Chicago had defensively and around the rim last season, quality production out of Luke Kornet and Daniel Gafford is going to be vital for a potential playoff push.

I explored Kornet’s possible value last week, so I would encourage you to check that out for an expanded look at what one of the Bulls’ valued free agent signings can bring to the frontcourt. As for Gafford, his Summer League performance put him on the map. He was one of the best rookies during his five-game stretch and posted two strong double-double performances. If anything, we learned the guy can play with a defensive edge (2.8 blocks per game) and dunk the basketball. Hey! I like both those things!


To be fair, you never want to ask too much out of a rookie, but the Bulls need exactly what Gafford can potentially offer them as an offensive rebounder and defensive presence. And if The Athletic’s Darnell Mayberry’s projected depth charts come to fruition, Gafford will be in line for a chunk of minutes behind Carter.

With young Carter still getting his feet wet, it’s difficult to imagine him having a “special” season — which means he will need help from the supporting cast around him. To be clear, the Bulls will be certainly trending in the right direction if Carter is special. But I don’t necessarily think he would solely be responsible for the team performing well or poorly. The Bulls have big-man versatility for the first time in quite some time. Carter will start, but Head Coach Jim Boylen has the opportunity to play matchup games with Gafford and Kornet.

(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Author: Elias Schuster

Elias Schuster is the Lead Bulls Writer at Bleacher Nation. You can follow him on Twitter @Schuster_Elias.