ORLANDO – It’s rare these days for the center position to dominate the top of an NBA Draft. With 2015 being an exception – that year Karl-Anthony Towns, Jahlil Okafor, Kristaps Porzingis and Willie Cauley-Stein were four of the first six selections – seldom are big men the center of attention.
Only three times in the last 20 years have at least five centers or center/power forward combo players been chosen in the top eight of the same draft. During this span, it happened in 2001, 2002 and, more recently, 2011 when the No. 3 through No. 8 picks in consecutive order were Enes Kanter, Tristan Thompson, Jonas Valanciunas, Jan Vesely and Bismack Biyombo.
It’s certainly possible the 2018 draft will be added to that short list when all is said and done. This year’s crop of highly talented big men each bring different skills to the table. DeAndre Ayton and Marvin Bagley III are mostly known for their offensive skills, while Mohamed Bamba and Jaren Jackson Jr. rank high on draft boards primarily for their defensive capabilities.
Perhaps the most versatile of the five, though, is Wendell Carter Jr., who showed at Duke this past season that he has very few limitations. At 6-foot-10, 259 pounds, Carter Jr. is arguably the best low-post scorer of the pack, is an excellent playmaker at his size, and he’s developed a somewhat reliable perimeter jumper. While Bamba and Jackson are the premier rim protectors of this draft, Carter proved in college that he can defend inside as well.
So, where does Carter himself think he stacks up against his closest competition? As you might expect from someone who got better and better as the college season went along, the 19-year-old from Atlanta firmly believes he’s at the top of the list. So incredibly confident in his abilities that he feels his play on the court tells that narrative.
“I don’t really like to talk about it, I just like to show it,” he said on Friday after working out for the Orlando Magic at Amway Center’s practice facility. “I can say I’m the most versatile big, I can say all that but I’m more by actions instead of words.”
With the draft less than a week away, Carter felt he made a really good impression on the Magic during his workout and believes he’d fit in extremely well in Orlando. Very familiar with the team’s current roster – he acknowledged how much he adores Nikola Vucevic’s and Aaron Gordon’s games and mentioned he already has an existing relationship with Jonathan Isaac from their high school days – the 2017 McDonald’s All-American is excited no matter how things shake out.
“It would be a great honor (if selected by the Magic),” he said. “Not only is it the sixth pick in the NBA Draft but Orlando is a great organization. I met a lot of great people while I was here.”
“It would be amazing,” he added about the idea of playing close to his home state. “It’s not that far of a drive. I’d definitely see a lot of my family down here a lot.”
In addition to the sixth overall pick, the Magic have a pair of second round selections, Nos. 35 and 41. Notable players aside from Carter who have already worked out in Orlando include Oklahoma’s Trae Young, Kentucky’s Kevin Knox and IMG Academy’s Anfernee Simons. Alabama’s Collin Sexton is scheduled to work out with the Magic on Saturday.