Bulls Season Rewind 18-19: Wendell Carter Jr.
Bulls fans were excited to see Wendell Carter Jr. take the floor this season after the Bulls took the big man from Duke with the 7th overall pick in the 2018 Draft. Carter Jr., a cerebral big man with solid fundamentals and a knack for defense, quickly flashed his potential this season as he fit into the league right away. At only 19 years old, Carter Jr. wasn’t intimidated by the bright lights of the league, and though he struggled with foul trouble at times during his rookie season he was already garnering respect among his teammates with his heady play. Carter Jr. projects as a defensive anchor of the future and his potential is highly regarded around the league.
Carter Jr. was well on track to making an All-Rookie team campaign before he suffered a thumb injury in late January that required surgery and effectively ended his season at the halfway mark. As disappointing as it was that Carter Jr. was unable to play the back half of the schedule, he showed enough in his 44 games with the team to inspire a lot of confidence and hope that Carter Jr. anchors the Bulls frontcourt for many years to come.
Let’s take a look at some of Carter Jr.’s best performances of the season:
October 31, Vs Nuggets (Denver 108, Bulls 107 OT)
Carter Jr. Stat Line: 25 points (9-21 FG), 2-3 3PT, 8 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals, 3 blocks
This is the game in which Wendell Carter flashed his insane potential and all the facets of his game came together to give Bulls fans a glimpse of what their rookie could one day bring. Matched up against All-NBA center Nikola Jokic, Carter Jr. more than held his own, pouring in 25 points, battling on the glass and contributing to every facet of the game. Carter came out aggressively on offense but it was his defense on Jokic that really stood out, forcing the opposing star into 7 turnovers and a lot of frustration on the night.
Though the Bulls wound up losing on a final second overtime putback by veteran forward Paul Millsap, this was the game that showed why Carter was such a lauded first round pick and why the Bulls remain so high on his potential.
November 30, At Pistons (Detroit 107, Bulls 88)
Carter Jr. Stat Line: 28 points (11-18 FG), 7 rebounds, 3 blocks
This was not a particularly memorable game for the Bulls, as the Pistons jumped out to an early first quarter lead and never looked back. However, Carter showed up to play, showing his ability to score (both around the rim and from midrange) as he gave Pistons center Andre Drummond headaches running him around the court en route to a career-best 28 points. Unfortunately, the rest of the team did not join in on the hot hand, as the other four starters hit just 14 of their 43 attempted field goals, resulting in a rough loss. Still, 28 points in just 29 minutes of court time showed the Pistons – and Bulls Nation – how well Carter could put the ball in the basket.
December 28, At Wizards (Bulls 101, Washington 92)
Carter Jr. Stat Line: 17 points (8-10 FG), 13 rebounds, 3 blocks, 2 assists, 1 steal
The Bulls, beginning to get healthy again with Lauri Markkanen back into the fold, began to find their groove at about this point in the season. This win in Washington would be their third in four games, in no small part to the effort of Carter Jr. Carter poured in 17 points on an ultra-efficient 8-10 shooting night, while scooping up 13 rebounds. The Wizards frontcourt of Jeff Green and Thomas Bryant didn’t have an answer for Carter on this night.
Status Looking Ahead
Wendell Carter Jr. is still on his rookie contract. As a 2018 draft pick, Carter Jr. is under contract through 2021-22 (with team options on the final two seasons).