Bulls

Bulls’ Wendell Carter Jr. turning the Summer League into his own block party

Bulls’ Wendell Carter Jr. turning the Summer League into his own block party

Wendell Carter Jr. is displaying pure dominance in just two NBA Summer League games.

The seventh overall pick of this year’s NBA draft had quite a debut in a Bulls uniform Saturday.

Carter Jr. posted 16 points, nine rebounds, five blocks, two steals, and hit two three-pointers in the Bulls’ 86-81 win over the Cavaliers. 

He followed that up with another stuffed stat sheet Sunday against the Lakers, tallying nine points, seven rebounds and four blocked shots.

Coming into the draft, Carter Jr. was known as an excellent rim protector in his one season with Duke, and he’s shown that in two summer league games, combining for nine blocked shots.

Carter Jr. has expressed his willingness to win on this rebuilding Bulls team and to expand his game.

He did have two-three pointers in the game against the Cavaliers, showing the seven-footer can stretch his game beyond the paint.

The excitement is there for the Bulls because Carter Jr. will compliment All-Rookie Lauri Markkanen of having a dominant presence up front, but to also give Markkanen more opportunities to score points.

Coach Fred Hoiberg has had nothing but praise for Carter Jr. so far.

“He’s been excellent,” Hoiberg said during the Summer League game on ESPN's broadcast of the Bulls-Lakers. “Ever since we started our minicamp, you can see the intensity he plays with, does whatever it takes to help a teammate and he’s had great experience so far going up against some experienced NBA players.”

“He doesn’t back down from anybody, his shot blocking ability is unbelievable, and he’s very comfortable with his left hand.”

Being able to show Carter Jr. can step beyond the arc, Hoiberg loves all the things he can do.

“I love his versatility, he’s a modern day big, he makes good passes, and he’s good in the pocket which is such an important skill in today’s game.”

Hoiberg also believes Bobby Portis and Robin Lopez will be good mentors for Carter Jr. in his transition into the NBA.

“Bobby had a great year last year, and Lopez is such a stabilizing force and a mentor to Wendell.”

Having so much poise at a young age, Hoiberg notices Carter Jr, does it right.

“The art of verticality takes time to understand, and he was taught as well as anybody from Coach K(Krzyzewski). He’s really mastered that at a young age. He uses his wingspan, he doesn’t foul. I’ve watched film on Wendell, and all his blocks stay in play which can start your break. He’s ability to pursue the block, he can close really quickly with his speed.”

Of course, Carter Jr. has yet to play against the likes of LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Demarcus Cousins, etc. but the energy and maturity will only continue to grow.

So far, so good for the Bulls rookie.

Fun with tall people: Lauri Markkanen takes photo with Yao Ming and looks short

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USA TODAY

Fun with tall people: Lauri Markkanen takes photo with Yao Ming and looks short

Lauri Markkanen doesn't often feel short.

The Bulls forward is 7-feet tall, which even in the land of NBA giants makes him one of the tallest players on the court at all times. So when Markkanen stands next to Yao Ming, it changes perspective quite a bit.

Markkanen posted a photo with him and the 7-foot-6 Chinese Hall of Famer. Markkanen looks like a child.

Makes you wonder if Markkanen pulled some "What's the weather like up there?" jokes just because he otherwise never can.

 

Could Derrick Walton Jr. become the solution at backup PG?

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Could Derrick Walton Jr. become the solution at backup PG?

Former Miami Heat two-way player Derrick Walton Jr. is reported to be nearing a deal with the Bulls. In an interview with The Athletic, it was stated: "Walton, 23, says he knows where he’ll play next season. An agreement is in place, but his agent, Mark Bartelstein, is requiring him to sit on the news until next week. All Walton can put out publicly is this: 'Long story short, I’m good. I’m going to a great situation. All I can say.' "

And while it is not yet known if the potential contract will be a two-way deal or not, Walton would provide an intriguing lottery ticket for the Bulls. 

The team mostly ignored looking for a backup point guard on the market. There is obviously a belief in the organization that Cameron Payne will have some internal growth, making him the best option. And the trade of Jerian Grant for essentially nothing, shows even more that Payne is there guy. Retaining Ryan Arcidiacono is a nice move considering the hustle that he showed last season at both the G League and NBA level, but it still leaves the Bulls thin in terms of established backup PGs behind Kris Dunn. And that is where Walton comes into play. 

Walton was a four-year player at the University of Michigan, where he played in some big-time games and showed immense leadership potential. But in terms of strictly on the court skills, there is one thing that he does extremely well: space the floor. 

In his four years at Michigan, Walton took a total of 581 3-point attempts, and knocked them down at a 40.1 percent rate. His elite shooting is enough to make him a legitimate rotation player for Fred Hoiberg. And while Payne still may develop into a better player, his outside shooting is his calling card despite never being elite at that skill at the NBA level. And in fact, when you compare he and Walton’s stats from college, the G League and the NBA, it becomes apparent who is the better shooter right now.

3-point percentage at NCAA level: Payne- 35.9 percent, Walton- 40.1 percent
3-point percentage at G League level: Payne- 33.8 percent, Walton- 37.7 percent
3-point percentage at NBA level: Payne- 34 percent, Walton- 41.2 percent

Now obviously, there is a “small sample size alert” for the NBA level, as Walton has only taken 17 3-pointers at the NBA level in his limited time with the Miami Heat. But these numbers show that even dating back to their freshman years of college, Walton has been the more efficient shooter from 3-point range.

Cameron Payne has the edge when it comes to playmaking, and this is based off of the fact that Payne has maintained an assist rate above 30 percent through all of his G League stints, while also having a low turnover rate (9.9 percent). Walton didn’t come close to Payne in terms of G League assist rate, and his 17.9 percent turnover rate at the G League level shows that his decision-making has yet to catch up to his shooting. 

Ultimately, Walton is going to be most effective as an off-ball guard who can make quick decisions, and knockdown the 3-point shot at a high level. Though if Summer League was any indication, his passing out of the pick-and-roll is getting better. And while Payne certainly is a good shooter, his game is much more predicated on having the ball in his hands, and playing in the pick-and-roll. With so many players on the Bulls who can create their own shot, Walton could end up being the cleanest fit with this constantly evolving Bulls roster.