The deadline for early entrants to declare for the 2020 NBA Draft is fast approaching on April 26.
But with the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic still unfurling, many prospects — top-tier, fringe-level and everyone in between — are faced with a decision-making environment that is fraught to a level without comparison in NBA history. Without in-person workouts or meetings, and the status of the combine uncertain, teams will (as of now) be operating off game tape and limited remote meeting time, alone, in making their decisions come draft night.
It’s an all-time curveball for college players (especially of the one-and-done variety) weighing the risk-reward calculation of declaring.
Wendell Carter Jr., who entered the draft after one year at Duke and was selected No. 7 overall by the Bulls in 2018, recognizes that plight. He decided to offer advice and support through a column in The Players’ Tribune titled “What To Know Before You Jump.”
From the article, Carter’s advice to those who didn’t post eye-popping statlines in college and were hoping for a chance to assert themselves in predraft workouts:
“We’re living through unprecedented times right now. Obviously basketball stuff isn’t anywhere near the most important issue at this point, right in the middle of the coronavirus crisis, but what’s going on has meant that current draft prospects are in a tough situation that players like me didn’t have to deal with. No individual workouts? No combine? No predraft camps? No in-person meetings? Basically your game tape is going to have to be good enough. So if you’re someone who maybe didn’t put up huge numbers last season, but who kills it when it comes to measurables and workouts, this honestly might not be your year.”
Carter also revealed in the piece that Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski was one of the principle voices that convinced him to declare when he did — notable given Krzyzewski’s long history of developing three- and four-year players at Duke (a strategy he had adapted with the times).
Carter also detailed his approach to online mock drafts (avoid!), how he went about finding reliable mentors to lean on in his decision-making process, and the best advice he got from Bulls teammates upon his arrival to the league (when people come calling for cash, “find a nice way to tell people no”).
Carter certainly doesn’t seem to harbor any regret regarding his decision. Through nearly two seasons with the Bulls — the fate of Year 2 is in the balance — Carter has flashed potential as a stalwart anchoring the Bulls’ defense, and savvy distributing ability on handoffs, from the elbows and from the top of the key.
Injuries have riddled the early segment of Carter’s career, as has a limited role in the Bulls’ offense, but at 21 years old, his ceiling remains high. As further evidenced by The Players’ Tribune piece, he is also wise beyond his years.