Coby White and Zach LaVine may have garnered the most attention from Bulls fans last season, but on certain nights, neither was the best player on the court.
Before suffering an unfortunate injury that sidelined him for 22 games, Wendell Carter Jr. was putting together a very solid second season in the NBA, including 17 double-doubles, good enough to land him on the Rising Stars roster at All-Star Weekend. I know his performances may not have been the flashiest, but considering former head coach Jim Boylen seemed to exclude him from the game plan entirely, it’s telling that he was still able to make that kind of impact.
Some Bulls fans have trouble working up excitement about Carter Jr.’s future. And I get that. Since joining the team two years ago, he’s appeared in only 60 percent of the team’s games, which is not the best look for a hyped-up No. 7-overall pick. However, we should be encouraged by the fact that neither injury appears to hold long-term significance. Not to mention, Carter Jr. was plenty healthy before joining the Bulls. There is a world where we chalk up these past two seasons as nothing more than a fluke.
Still, he’s found himself tagged with the injury-prone label, and one Rising Stars appearance isn’t enough to prove to an eager fan base – let alone a new front office – that you’re the big man of the future. We need Carter Jr. to have the breakout performance we’ve all been waiting for in Year 3. Can he do it?
Well, according to a recent interview with Ben Stinar of Forbes Sports, the answer is a big old “YES!”
“Next year, y’all definitely are going to see a different Wendell,” Carter Jr. said. “I’ve communicated with the front office a lot. I’ve been talking to my head coach, my new head coach, a lot. They’ve just been telling me that they really believe in me. They want to see me be who I was when I was at Duke. Be who I was even in my first year in the league. They want to see more of the assertive, aggressive Wendell … I’m excited. I feel like y’all are going to see a more aggressive Wendell, especially on the offensive end.”
I asked Chicago Bulls Wendell Carter today about what we can hope to see from him next season.
“Next year, y’all definitely are going to see a different Wendell.” pic.twitter.com/dbiljrxpJn
— Ben Stinar (@BenStinar) October 22, 2020
In today’s game of position-less basketball and small-ball play, Carter Jr. might be Chicago’s best asset. He is a 21-year-old big man with an impressive wingspan and solid two-way potential. In fact, that he was an afterthought on the offensive end of the ball last season was one of Boylen’s biggest blunders.
Carter Jr. averaged 13.5 points on 56.1 percent shooting from the field and 41.3 percent from downtown in college. On top of that, he received praise for his potential passing and playmaking ability, averaging 2.0 assists per game. A lot of his upside has always been on the defensive end thanks to his impressive frame and natural rim-protecting abilities, but we shouldn’t forget that there was/is plenty to like on the other side of the ball too. For more on how Chicago has failed to get him involved offensively, check out our post from earlier this year.
For Carter Jr. to truly become one of the Bulls foundational pieces, it’s vital that he finds a consistent presence on offense. At the same time, he needs to help fill the leadership gap this team clearly holds. Fortunately, he sounds ready to do both next season, but sounding ready and being ready are two entirely different things. Time to turn those words into action.