Wendell Carter Jr. has been one of the few bright spots in a tough stretch for the Bulls.
Speculation around the time of the 2018 NBA Draft was that Mohammed Bamba, Jaren Jackson Jr. or even DeAndre Ayton could end up being better defenders than Carter due to their athleticism. And while time will tell if this is true, so far in 2018-19, Carter has shown that he is ahead of his peers in terms of breaking down what is happening in front of him and assessing what his responsibility is. One of the main thing holding back the Bulls on defense is ball-watching.
To be effective against an opponent that swings the ball around on offense—generating good shots from the strong and weakside—your defense needs to have all five players on the floor with their head on a swivel, keeping an eye on the ball and their man. Carter has done a lot of leading by example in this specific area.
Wendell Carter Jr. is a BEAST. He currently has seven more blocks than any other rookie.— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) November 15, 2018
His 30th block this season just happened against the Celtics: pic.twitter.com/7aOEAv4n84
Carter's defensive numbers have been head-and-shoulders above his fellow rookie big men and with Hoiberg trusting him with 25+ minutes a night, the gap between he and his peers is likely to grow.
Heading into Wednesday's game, opponent's attacked him frequently within 6 feet of the basket. When Carter defends shot within 6 feet of the basket he makes opponent's shoot 9.3 percent worse, the best mark on the Bulls if you consider sample size.
As of now, Carter is still on pace to be the only teenager in NBA history to average at least 2 blocks per game. And if he keeps this up, his case for Rookie of the Year will only get stronger.
And with all of the injuries and struggles of this young team, Carter's impressive defensive IQ continues to bring hope.
The Bulls upcoming back-to-back will see them take on Giannis Antetokounmpo and Kawhi Leonard respectively.
These matchups will likely show just how far away the Bulls are from being a competitive team. But with Chicago’s perimeter defense lacking sufficient wing defenders, these two games will also showcase Carter’s ability to be the last line of defense, on a team that could use a first one.
The Bulls are still looking for a leader, says Wendell Carter Jr. after the game pic.twitter.com/zZs5Ar2U1w— Bulls Talk (@NBCSBulls) November 15, 2018