Bulls are seeing total package in rookie big Carter


LAS VEGAS -- Duke product Wendell Carter Jr. was the last of the five big men taken in the first seven picks of this year's NBA draft. So far during the NBA summer league in Las Vegas, however, Carter perhaps has been the best of the group. His game looks to translate well to the modern NBA.
Nearly the full complement of Carter's skills was on display Wednesday during the Chicago Bulls' 95-83 win over the Dallas Mavericks in the opening round of summer tournament play. Carter finished with 19 points on 9-of-11 shooting, pulling down nine rebounds and handing out two assists as the Bulls outscored Dallas by 22 points in his 30 minutes of action.
Let's start at the defensive end, the strength of Carter's game right now. Chicago is comfortable switching Carter on anyone, even point guards, and he has more than held his own on those plays. On one sequence during the second half Wednesday, he stayed with Dallas guard Josh Adams and forced a double dribble.
The downside of using Carter to switch pick-and-rolls is that it takes him away from the basket, where he's proved to be an excellent rim protector. Though Carter had no blocks on Wednesday, he's still averaging 2.8 blocks per game in four summer appearances, putting him among the leaders in Las Vegas and tops among this year's lottery picks -- ahead of more heralded shot blocker Mohamed Bamba, the sixth pick.
In a matchup of two of the top bigs in the draft, Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton shined offensively, while Orlando Magic center Mo Bamba was active on defense.
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Rather than just accumulating blocks by chasing after every shot, Carter has racked them up while remaining disciplined defensively. He already shows a grasp of verticality as a defensive tool and strong instincts for whether to stay home defensively or help. And when opponents do try to challenge him, Carter can swallow them up. On one highlight play on Saturday, he blocked Cleveland Cavaliers center Ante Zizic with two hands, essentially ripping the ball away.
At 6-foot-10, Carter doesn't have the size of No. 1 overall pick Deandre Ayton or the shooting ability of No. 4 pick Jaren Jackson Jr., who made eight 3-pointers in his summer debut. He wasn't as high-scoring at Duke as his teammate Marvin Bagley III, drafted second by the Sacramento Kings. Yet Carter's 16.8 points per game so far this summer also lead this year's lottery bigs.