The Bulls had the chance to make a major splash on draft night but opted to go with the safer play on Thursday, selecting Duke center Wendell Carter Jr. with the seventh overall selection.
Carter Jr. played one season at Duke, averaging 13.5 points, 9.1 rebounds and 2.1 blocks in 26.8 minutes per game. The All-ACC Freshman selection shot 56 percent from the field and made 41 percent of his 46 3-pointers, all the while doing so as a fourth or fifth option in a loaded Blue Devils offense.
Carter was a five-star recruit a year ago from Atlanta. He committed to and signed with Duke before Marvin Bagley, the second pick by the Kings, reclassified and also joined the Duke frontcourt. Carter went from the cream of the draft class crop to a second option in the frontcourt, deferring to Bagley, who averaged 21 points, 11 rebounds and won ACC Player of the Year.
But Carter finds himself in a perfect scenario in Chicago. It’s clear the Bulls valued finding a complement to stretch forward Lauri Markkanen – last year’s 7th overall pick – drafting a player in Carter who projects as an elite rim protector and also plays well around the rim, two areas where the talented Markkanen struggles.
Rumors circulated in the lead-up to Thursday night’s draft that the Bulls were looking to move up in the draft, potentially dealing with Atlanta at No. 3 or Memphis at No. 4.
But the Hawks were able to find a trade partner with the Mavericks, who gave up a haul in the No. 5 pick and a 2019 first-round pick to move up to get Slovenian point guard Luka Doncic. Then Michigan State center Jaren Jackson Jr. agreed at the 11th hour to provide medical information to the Grizzlies. That made the prospect of moving up in the draft all but impossible, keeping them at No. 7.
At No. 6 the Magic grabbed Mo Bamba, a player the Bulls were attempting to trade up for to pair with Markkanen.
The Bulls had long been linked to Missouri forward Michael Porter Jr., the enigma of the draft who wound up falling out of the top 7. Porter had been the top player in the country before undergoing back surgery in November. He played just three games for the Tigers and ultimately went 14th to the Nuggets.