I can’t necessarily say Wendell Carter Jr. doesn’t get the respect he deserves, given that he’s just 21-year-old and has appeared in only 60 percent of Bulls games over the last two seasons, but I still find myself surprised by how little excitement there is for his future.
Aside from any actual progress made on the court this year, basketball nuts and advanced analytics seem to love Carter Jr., and he’s got the skillset to succeed on both ends of the court – defensively, he’s easily one of the better young big men in the league (9th in defensive win shares among centers this season), and offensively, he needs some work, but also shares any early shortcomings with the Bulls coaching staff, who have failed to use him properly.
All of which is to say, other than Zach LaVine, Carter Jr. is arguably the player with the current highest ceiling on this roster. If you don’t believe me, let’s talk about the fact that he turned into a double-double machine at the beginning of this season. The 37-game stretch before his ankle injury included 17 double-doubles, which was good enough to land him on the Rising Stars roster at All-Star Weekend.
To get a better idea of how well he played, I outlined each of those double-double performances below and included the starting center he went up against.
Check it out:
• Oct. 28th, 2019: 12 pts and 11 rebs vs. Raptors (Marc Gasol)
• Oct. 29th, 2019: 20 pts and 10 rebs against vs. Knicks (Mitchell Robinson)
• Nov. 1, 2019: 16 pts and 11 rebs vs. Pistons (Andre Drummond)
• Nov. 3, 2019: 20 pts and 10 rebs vs. Pacers (Goga Bitadze)
• Nov. 5th, 2019: 11 pts and 11 rebs vs. Lakers (JaVale McGee)
• Nov. 9th, 2019: 13 pts and 16 rebs vs. Rockets (Clint Capela)
• Nov. 12th, 2019: 17 pts and 12 rebs vs. Knicks (Taj Gibson)
• Nov. 16th, 2019: 18 pts and 14 rebs vs. Nets (Jarrett Allen)
• Nov. 20th, 2019: 12 pts and 15 rebs vs. Pistons (Andre Drummond)
• Nov. 23rd, 2019: 17 pts and 11 rebs vs. Hornets (Cody Zeller)
• Dec. 2nd, 2019: 10 pts and 10 rebs vs. Kings (Richaun Holmes)
• Dec. 4th, 2019: 16 pts and 13 rebs vs. Grizzles (Jonas Valanciunas)
• Dec. 11th, 2019: 11 pts and 10 rebs vs. Hawks (Damian Jones)
• Dec. 21st, 2019: 12 pts and 12 rebs vs. Pistons (Andre Drummond)
• Dec. 30th, 2019: 10 pts and 11 rebs vs. Bucks (Brook Lopez)
• Jan. 2nd, 2020: 18 pts and 13 rebs vs. Jazz (Rudy Gobert)
• Jan. 4th, 2020: 11 pts and 14 rebs vs. Celtics (Daniel Theis)
Carter Jr. went toe-to-toe or out-battled several of the NBA’s top big men … and I think that’s worth an ounce of your excitement, no?
He hauled in double-digit rebounds three times against the league’s leading rebounder Andre Drummond (and held him to only 6 pts in their matchup on Nov. 20th). He dropped 18 pts and hauled in 13 rebounds on Rudy Gobert, a seven-foot-one, two-time DPOY who is also third in the NBA in rebounds per game (10.3). And he was decidedly tough to control against proven, veteran centers like Brook Lopez, Marc Gasol, Jonas Valaciunas, and JaVale McGree.
I don’t know about you, but I find that to be pretty impressive stuff form a second-year player, who’s barely been on the court more than half the time.
And while Chicago won only eight of the 17 games in which Carter Jr. recorded a double-double, I think it’s fair to say without him, they could very well have 8 fewer wins in the record book (better lottery odds, though!). I know his performances may not be among the most flashy, but these games demonstrate how vital he is to this team’s success. He matches up well against a variety of bigs, and he’s the only consistent rebounder for a team that struggles to rebound the basketball in an open gym (more specifically, Carter Jr. offensive rebounding percentage sits in the 79th percentile (he’s 9th in offensive rebounds per game), while his defensive rebounding percentage is in the 78th).
Again, we all know he needs to show more on the offensive end – check out our post from the other week about that – but I think it’s fair to say he’s done plenty of good over his first two seasons in the NBA. Remember, he’s the second-youngest player on the team, as well. So if Carter Jr. can prove to play this well against some of the league’s better frontcourts this early in his career (and in this crappy of a system), I think we have plenty of reasons to be pumped about his future in Chicago.