Wendell Carter Jr. Brings The Intangibles

Did the Bulls just show us their draft preference? Or at least the order in which the Bulls believe the draft will proceed?

The Bulls Monday morning had workouts with Duke center Wendell Carter Jr. That followed a Friday session with Texas center Mohamed Bamba. Later Monday, the Bulls are to conduct a workout session with Villanova forward Mikal Bridges.

Most mock drafts reflecting draft speculation have Bamba going fifth to the Dallas Mavericks, and then Carter Jr. seventh to the Bulls and Bridges toward the back of the top 10 to New York or Philadelphia.

Of course, it likely all is coincidence or timing given the schedules of players commuting among teams.

Carter Jr. told reporters after his workout in the Advocate Center that it was his first of about six he planned, mentioning Dallas, Memphis, Orlando, New York and Cleveland. Dallas selects No. 5 and often has been linked to the 7-1 Bamba. Memphis is at No. 4 and has been mentioned with Michigan State’s Jaren Jackson Jr., though also in trade speculation. Orlando is sixth, Cleveland eighth and New York ninth. It’s doubtful Carter Jr. would get past the Knicks.

“I see myself fitting in with every team that I’m (working out) for,” Carter Jr. said. “I’m hearing 3 from all the way to 11, 12, 13. I’ve looked at each team’s roster and what I could bring to the table. And honestly, this is the honest truth, I think I can fit in with any team. The Bulls are a great situation for me, a great young team. I could come in and do what I have to do to help the team win. “They’re No. 1,” Carter added with a laugh after a pause.

Robin Lopez figures to start for the Bulls next season in the last under his contract unless in the unlikely event he is traded. There isn’t a large market for modestly athletic centers like Lopez. Carter Jr. is more versatile, an excellent shooter for a big man with long arms, a 7-4 1/2 wingspan and 9-1 standing reach, which is similar to Elton Brand. Brand was slightly smaller, 6-8 without shoes compared to Carter Jr. at just under 6-9 without shoes and 6-10 with shoes. Bamba is taller and much longer with the record 7-10 wingspan and 9-7 1/2 standing reach. But Carter Jr. is more complete on offense as a 41 percent three point shooter at Duke with an ability to blend into the modern NBA game with defensive side to side quickness.

“The biggest thing is there’s not a lot of traditional big men anymore,” Carter Jr. noted. “There’s a lot of switching going on. As you watch these playoffs, these Finals, they’re switching almost every ball screen. The ability for a big man to stay in front of a guard and force them to take contested twos, that’s very important. And then being able to shoot, stretch the floor, is very important for a big man.”

It’s the kind of thing that might be more appealing to a team than its fan base.

Fans often look for sizzle and dazzle in top draft picks. Which is important, but so is a nourishing place within a team.

“I take a lot of pride in (the cerebral part of the game),” Carter Jr. agreed. “A lot of players don’t look at that. They want to score 50, 60 points a game and make all the flashy plays. I just want to win. To win, you got to do the small things.”

Carter Jr. could fit nicely with the Bulls core of Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen. Both he and Markkanen could switch on big men and play inside/outside since Carter also was a willing passer. And they can open the court with their shooting for the penetration of LaVine and Dunn.

It’s perhaps why ESPN commentator and former college coach Fran Fraschilla is so high on Carter Jr., even placing him ahead of Bamba.

Fraschilla was interviewed by the Dallas Morning News about the Mavericks prospects at No. 5 in the draft. Bamba is the local Dallas favorite after attending the U. of Texas, with his record size and the Mavs’ weakness at center. But Fraschilla said he would take Carter Jr. ahead of Bamba.

“I think I would prefer at the five-spot myself Wendell Carter, who like Jaren Jackson has very few red flags,” Fraschilla told the newspaper. “He’s got size. He’s also got what we call plus-length. Not only is he 6-10, but I think he measures out at 7-3,. The average big guy in the NBA is at least a plus-5 when you compare his height versus his wingspan. He also plays with a high motor. He plays very cerebrally. He was an excellent passer. He was the reason why (Marvin) Bagley had such a good year inside because they were a really a good high/low tandem. And you’re getting again a no maintenance kid who’s going to take care of his business off the court.

“If it were me it’s Jackson at four, Carter at five and then potentially Bamba,” said Fraschilla. “The guy that I think is most ready to be plugged into a NBA lineup and give solid minutes is Wendell Carter. Keep in mind if you compare him to Al Horford, Al averaged 10 and 10 as a rookie. He was not the Al Horford as a rookie that he has become. Hopefully you’ve got a guy that can give you 10 years of double/doubles.”

Which Carter suggests he could. For the first eight years of his career before a knee injury, Brand averaged about 20 and 10 with similar scoring averages at Duke to Carter Jr.

“All my teammates weren’t able to show all their strengths,” Carter Jr. said when asked about playing a role at Duke to support star Bagley. “That’s just the college life. You buy into whatever college you go to and you do whatever you got to do to help the team win. I think – not even speaking for myself but all my teammates – we’re going to be able to show a lot more what we can do at the next level with spacing on the floor. Frankly, it’s the NBA. It’s one-on-one, it’s not zone like we were playing. There’s a lot more space on the floor.

“I’m a great rebounder,” Carter Jr. added. “I take a lot of pride in rebounding. I don’t like for people to outrebound me. I just fight. I’m a great teammate, and that comes to being a great cheerleader on the bench or setting a great pick for one of my teammates to get open. I think I’m good at all the intangibles, the little things that a lot of fans might not recognize but a lot of coaches do.”

Is Wendell Carter Jr. the diamond after a rough stretch for the Bulls?