Bulls Draft Target Wendell Carter Jr. Boasts Versatility, Strong Resume

Carter is a projected lottery pick who has worked out for the Bulls.

Eli Hershkovich
June 14, 2018 - 9:12 am
Duke big man Wendell Carter Jr.

Geoff Burke/USA Today Sports


By Eli Hershkovich--

(670 The Score) Kicked in the back of the head while diving for a loose ball. Drilled by a forearm in the same spot during a battle on the glass. Wendell Carter Jr. exhibited no retaliation.

Demetrius Smith -- the basketball coach of Pace Academy in Atlanta -- noticed a transformation in Carter’s character as the Knights claimed their first Class AA championship in March 2016. Months before, Smith cited how opponents’ physicality would constantly bother Carter.

No longer. Then a 6-foot-8 junior, Carlter totaled 30 points and 20 rebounds in his team's 22-point win in the title game.

"Wendell’s response was a dunk or just to play harder," Smith said.

Carter's attitude adjustment propelled his game, and he’s now a projected lottery pick in the NBA Draft next week as a result. Carter is one of the Bulls' targets, having worked out for them on June 4.

Carter arrived at Pace as a sophomore after transfering from Fulton Leadership Academy, a local public charter school just outside of Atlanta. He native immediately joined the varsity team and anchored the Knights’ zone defense.

"He could basically guard block-to-block on the paint," Smith said. "We funnelled all the dribble drives to him, from the right and left side of the court."

Smith switched to a man-to-man defense in Carter's following two seasons at Pace.

Offensively, Smith recalled how Carter lacked confidence in his jumper because he didn’t believe it meshed well within their attack. Smith subsequently approached him with an alternative gameplan, forcing him to shoot jumpers without receiving a touch in the paint.

Carter slowly became acclimated to his new mindset. In the aforementioned title game, he shot 10-of-11 from the field and knocked down all three of his 3-point attempts.

"He’s a sponge," Smith said. "Whatever they ask him to do at the next level, he’s going to be able to pick it up.

"Early on his career, he’s going to make the right play instead of doing what everyone else wants him to do (shoot)."

In his final campaign at Pace, Carter led the Knights to their second straight state title — this time in the Class AAA final after reclassifying following their last championship. A 2017 McDonald's’ All-American, Carter averaged 21.5 points and 15.7 rebounds as a senior.

Carter committed to Duke amid that run, choosing the school over Harvard in November 2016. The Crimson aren’t known for stealing a five-star recruits from blueblood programs, but Smith noted that a strong education was high on Carter’s priority list.

Now 6-foot-10 and 259 pounds, Carter averaged 13.5 points and 9.1 rebounds per game in his lone season at Duke. He also totaled a 12.7 percent offensive rebounding rate and 7.6 percent block rate -- ranking 62nd and 64th in country, respectively.

Fellow touted draft prospect Marvin Bagley III (21 points, 11.1 rebounds), who reclassified to play at Duke late in the process ahead of last season, stole much of the spotlight. Maximizing two frontcourt stars’ potential in the same setting is a difficult task, especially their development in college basketball capped as one-and-dones.

The Bulls' interest in the 19-year-old Carter is genuine, as he would slide in well with fellow big man Lauri Markkanen, who's a dangerous weapon from 3-point range. The two would have the potential to form a strong inside-out game.

As you might expect, Smith believes Carter has a higher ceiling than Markkanen, who earned first-team all-rookie honors this past season.

"He’s (Carter) just so flexible on both sides of court," Smith said. "He can shoot the three. He can put the ball on the floor. He’s a proven winner at every level."

Moreover, Carter acknowledged that with a lack of true centers in the NBA, positional versatility is critical.

"They want to get up and down the court more," Carter said at the NBA Combine in May. "Something I've been working on is my lateral quickness. Just so I can guard guards in pick-and-roll actions."

Whether Carter lands in Chicago or elsewhere, his response should be nothing but smiles come draft night.

Eli Hershkovich is a producer for 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @EliHershkovich.​