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Big man Wendell Carter hasn’t shot the ball well this preseason, and that lack of spacing threatens to hurt the Chicago Bulls’ offense.
If you Google “Wendell Carter Jr. shooting”, you’ll find a plethora of articles highlighting the work the former Chicago Bulls’ seventh overall pick has put in to refine his
jumper. Of course, whether it be Ben Simmons or Lonzo Ball, offseason stories about a poor shooter striving to improve their consistency are as ubiquitous as the missed shots
those players threw up to necessity the extra practice, to begin with, and the chances of the improvements taking hold are as random as a coin flip.
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We never truly find out if the extra time put in was fruitful until we see the results in actual NBA games. When it comes to Carter — who has shot 19.7 percent in his first two
seasons in the league — any bit of progress would be welcome, but if the Chicago Bulls’ first two preseason games are any indication (I know, I know, it’s just the
preseason), there is still reason for concern.
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In the Bulls’ first two preseason games against the Houston Rockets, opposing centers mostly stayed in drop coverage whenever Carter was on the floor. Given that Carter shot 1
-for-9 from 3-point range in those games, it’s hard to blame them.
Here’s an instance of the strategy working in the first quarter of the Dec. 11 game. Zach LaVine elects to drive from the right elbow, but due to Carter’s dubious efficiency,
DeMarcus Cousins slides down to the paint while Jae’Sean Tate plays Ice coverage. LaVine makes the right decision kicking it to Carter, but the former Duke Blue Devil showed
why Cousins was so unconcerned with his shot.
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The Chicago Bulls have exercised the third-year option on guard Coby White, and fourth-year options on center Wendell Carter Jr. and forward Chandler Hutchison. By exercising their options, all players will be under contract with the Bulls for the 2021-22 season.
In his rookie campaign, White averaged 13.2 points (6th among rookies with same qualifiers), 3.5 rebounds (T-12th) and 2.7 assists (4th) over 65 games, and he shot .394 from the field (10th), .354 from three (7th) and .791 from the free throw line (2nd). He was named to the 2019-20 All-Rookie Second Team and was selected as the Kia NBA Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month for games played in February after posting three consecutive 30-point outings in the month.
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Carter Jr. appeared in 43 games (43 starts) in 2019-20 and averaged 11.3 points, 9.4 rebounds and 1.2 assists in 29.2 minutes per game. In his sophomore season, he raised his averages in points (+1.0) and rebounds (+2.4) per game while shooting .534 from the field, a 4.9 percent increase from his rookie campaign. Carter Jr. posted a career- and team-best 17 double-doubles last year and was named to the U.S. Team for the 2020 NBA Rising Stars game but did not play due to injury.
In 2019-20, Hutchison appeared in 28 games (10 starts) and averaged 7.8 points (+2.6 from his rookie year), 3.9 rebounds and 0.96 steals in 18.8 minutes per game while shooting .457 from the field and .316 from three. On Jan. 29, at Indiana, he scored a career-high 21 points on 10-of-14 shooting from the field.
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Now, these are just two preseason games — not to mention the first bit of on-court action for the Bulls in over nine months — so none of this will matter if Carter starts
draining these shots consistently once the regular season starts, and his shooting form indicates that he might if he compiles a discernable sample size.
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Still, that doesn’t do much to alleviate what we’ve seen so far, which has only served to reify why he ranked in the 13th percentile in BBall Index’s (subscription required)
per game 3-point gravity metric. And it doesn’t offer much hope for an offense that may have to work around those limitations…again.
It would be one thing if this were an elite offense being tasked with this potential chore, but this Bulls scoring attack — which finished last year with an offensive rating
3.9 points per 100 possessions worse than the league average — is anything but, especially with them handing starting point guard duties to White, who profiles more as a
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To get the most out of White, and the rest of the team, on offense, the Bulls need to provide them with as much spacing as possible to make the reads as easy as possible.
Hopefully, Carter’s newfound affinity for the 3-pointer will help with that. But if the shot doesn’t fall the way it needs to, it could mean another year of misses for the
entire Bulls offense.
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