Yesterday, The Athletic’s Shams Charania announced an MRI for Wendell Carter Jr. exposed a high right ankle sprain, meaning the Bulls big man should expect to miss several weeks.
Later in the day, the Bulls sent out the official word, and Carter Jr. is in line to miss more than a month of NBA action. The Bulls labeled the injury a “severe” sprain, estimating a recovery period of 4-6 weeks.
OFFICIAL: Wendell Carter Jr. underwent an MRI and CT Scan which confirmed a severe right ankle sprain. It is estimated he will be out 4-6 weeks. A repeat MRI and CT Scan was performed on Otto Porter Jr. which showed ongoing bone healing.
— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) January 10, 2020
For the sake of our sanity, let’s imagine Carter Jr. can return on the frontend of this expected timetable and can return on Feb. 9 against the 76ers. Counting the game he already missed against the New Orleans Pelicans, the Bulls would be without one of their best and most consistent players this season for 16 games. Oof.
Fortunately, if Carter Jr. must miss six full weeks, the blow will have been softened by the NBA All-Star Break being included in his time off the court. That means he’d only be missing about three more games.
Whatever the time missed will be – it’ll feel like an eternity. Carter Jr. has been the team’s leading rebounder, third-leading scorer, and second-most efficient scorer. Plus, he’s far and beyond the Bulls’ best rim-protector. The Bulls’ first game without Carter Jr. ended with the Pelicans stealing the rebounding battle 63-49 and winning the game by 15. His absence was felt immediately and will continue to be felt for as long as the ankle injury keeps him out.
Moving forward, the Bulls will be relying on a frontcourt of Thaddeus Young, Lauri Markkanen, Daniel Gafford, and Luke Kornet. On Wednesday, Boylen opted to put Young into the starting lineup and move Markkanen underneath the basket. While Young scored 18 points and hauled down 6 rebounds, Markkanen had his fair share of struggles. The Pelicans have been starting Derrick Favors – a power forward by trade – at center recently, which made it at least semi-understandable for the Bulls to go with a “smaller” lineup. However, moving forward, the Bulls shouldn’t stick with Markkanen playing center. He may only be a rookie, but Daniel Gafford has played some solid ball, and he makes the most sense to fill Carter Jr.’s spot for the foreseeable future.
As for Luke Kornet, the Bulls probably want to avoid going down that rabbit hole again.
Unfortunately, Boylen and “makes sense” might be an oxymoron, so who knows how he’ll deal with this dilemma.
To close things out, the Bulls also offered up a brief update on Otto Porter’s status. The veteran forward received a repeat MRI which showed “ongoing bone healing.” I suppose this means he’ll continue on his current course of recovery, which includes a “gradual increase of non-basketball activities.” There is still no timetable for his return.
All in all, this season just keeps getting worse.