Wendell Carter Jr. has shot 4-18 over his first two preseason games. In the team’s first night back on the court, the big man took and missed five 3-pointers. Two nights later in the second preseason game, he took another four, finally knocking down one.
“Hey Google, play Celebration!”
All things considered, that’s not a good start. In fact, it’s pretty darn awful. Many Bulls fans have invested belief in Carter Jr.’s ability on the offensive end, but these early returns aren’t providing the most confidence. However, let’s remember we’re only two games into a fresh style of play after a nine-month hiatus. Now is not the time to overreact to a handful of missed shots, and that’s why head coach Billy Donovan is only buying more Carter Jr. stock.
This is all new for Wendell, and I think if you look at his last two games, just his shooting numbers, this is new for him. And it’s probably more on me than it is on him, because I do have a lot of confidence in him, and I do think there are a lot of things that he can do, but it’s going to be a learning process for him. And he has got to figure out where and when – I think he bypassed some 3’s tonight that he could’ve taken. There were some opportunities around the front of the rim he didn’t quite make, but I think he’ll be able to kind of come into his own.
Donovan’s right, this is a learning experience for Carter Jr., especially when we consider the style of play he’s been forced into over the last couple of seasons. Sure, part of his reluctance to play a more aggressive offensive role is on him, but the Bulls haven’t done him any favors. Despite success on that end of the floor during his time at Duke, Chicago (and, specifically, Jim Boylen) decided to use him strictly as a defensive anchor. In his first season with the team, his usage rating sat in only the 66th percentile, and it then dropped last season into the 44th percentile.
No doubt, Donovan is trying to get that number back up, as we’ve already seen Carter Jr. be an offensive focal point over these first two games. He has gotten his hands on the ball numerous times along the perimeter and at the elbow, which has allowed for more open looks and more opportunities to play-make. More specifically, Carter Jr. now has five assists in two games, which is only the third time that’s happened since the start of the 2019-20 campaign.
Considering we know Donovan has an affinity for making his big men pass the ball, I expect we continue to see similar numbers. After all, Carter Jr. did average 2.0 assists in his one year at Duke.
Donovan said he wanted to see Wendell Carter hitting more cutters this year. Looks good to me. pic.twitter.com/7Iy4DTwteT
— Stephen Noh (@StephNoh) December 14, 2020
A pass like the one above is surely part of the reason why Donovan – and several others – see Carter Jr. as more than capable of taking a big leap this season. Combine that with his shots
eventually, possibly, hopefully falling along the perimeter, and the Bulls have the makings of an elite, modern NBA center.
And if you happen to have a problem with any of this, I think it’s safe to say Donovan doesn’t care. The Bulls first-year head coach has shown us, and told us, over the first two preseason games that he will give Carter Jr. every chance in the world to come into his own in this new offense.
As long as we’re generating good shots, then I think we have to be able to live with the results. And I think for Wendell, he’s going to have to learn that because he has missed, in two games here, a lot of shots. He’s missed a lot of shots. But it’s okay, he’s taking the right ones, and he’s doing the right things. As he gets more and more comfortable he’s going to get better, but it’s going to be a process for him, but I’ve got a lot of confidence and belief in him.
Again, it may take some time for him to fire on all cylinders, but at least he’s (1) finally getting the chance and (2) has a coach that believes in his all-around game.
His Rising Stars nod last season further emphasizes that those around the league believe the Bulls have a truly special player on their hands. Donovan is no exception to that thought process, and he clearly sees the makings of a special players in Chicago.
Wendell is a winning player. He has got a lot of really high qualities. Obviously, I’m getting to know these guys, but when you talk the them about competition and the game and you hear the things that they talk about, especially Wendell, you know winning is very important to him. So, I think when he is not performing and he is not playing well, he takes that very very serious.
If true, that’s exactly the type of players the Bulls need to step up.