Name: Wendell Carter Jr.
Age: 19.2 years old
Dimensions: 6’10” tall, 7’4.5” wingspan, 251.4 pounds
Stats: 13.5 points, 9.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 2.1 blocks, and 2.0 turnovers in 26.5 minutes per game. Shot 56.1% from the field, 41.3% from three (1.2 attempts per game), and 73.8% from the free throw line (4.5 attempts).
Where to begin… Wendell Carter is perhaps the most well-rounded prospect in the entire draft, providing at least average capabilities at almost every skill of importance for a modern big man. He’s a large guy with decent athleticism, making him a strong rebounder on both ends of the court. That same size also enables him to muscle for position in the low post on offense, and he can go up strong around the basket with both hands. His footwork in the post is extremely advanced for his age, and he’s capable of spin moves, duck-ins, and a variety of hook shots.
When placed on the perimeter on offense, Carter is just as useful. He’s the best playmaking center in this draft class, working extremely well with Marvin Bagley III in two-big sets at Duke. That passing (as well as his solid screening ability) also serves him well in dribble handoffs, a staple of current NBA offenses. While he’s not a gunner from outside, he’s a serviceable shooter from the perimeter, someone who the defense at least must make a show of guarding. As he works on his shot in the NBA, he could develop into a true floor-spacer from the center position, which is incredibly valuable. His solid free throw percentages and the smoothness of his shot from midrange bode well for his development in that area. And when defenders run him off the three-point line, Carter’s handles are good enough for him to attack the closeout and get all the way to the rim. As he matures and works on his dribbling and court awareness when on the move, he could even add a pull-up midrange jumper to his repertoire. Better, his passing ability once again makes an appearance, as he can easily find the open man as defenses scramble to respond to his drives.
On defense, Wendell uses his large frame and wingspan to protect the rim with force. He’s doesn’t have incredible bounce, but he has enough to get up and reject opposing big men, though truly explosive leapers could finish over him. Moreover, he’s a smart defensive player who rotates well, and works hard to get back into position once he’s helped. His lateral quickness isn’t fantastic, but he’s already acknowledged that as something he needs to work on to take his game to the next level, and he has the smarts to funnel perimeter players into help or cut off their angles, even if he can’t fully slide with them.
For intangibles, there doesn’t seem to be much to say that hasn’t already been said about Wendell Carter. By all accounts he’s a fantastic teammate, a kind person, and someone who puts in the time to improve himself on and off the court. He’s supremely intelligent, and that shows in how he plays basketball. If Carter fully develops into his ceiling, he’s a superb number two option on the offensive end and a well above-average defensive presence at center. That’s an easy All-Star level player, possibly All-NBA.
The criticisms of Wendell seem more like nitpicks than actual weaknesses. He’s slightly undersized as a big man at 6’10”, and there will be times when his finishing on offense and rim protection on defense are compromised somewhat as a result. Similarly, he’s not an explosive athlete like some of his counterparts in this draft-- he won’t be quite as gifted a highlight-maker or shot-creator as his peers might be. Sometimes he’s a bit hesitant on offense, overthinking things rather than just playing ball. This can lead to turnovers or sticky offensive possessions, though hopefully the right coaching staff and environment would be able to cure this relatively easily.
Carter’s shot is still somewhat of a work in progress. He mostly had lots of time and space to shoot jumpers at the college level, struggling when forced to shoot more quickly when players closed out hard. He will need to work on a faster shot release, and one that is less bothered by pressure. He’s also not going to be a super dynamic defensive player out on the perimeter, as he doesn’t quite possess the footspeed to stick with smaller players for very long. But I think this weakness is overblown: he’s not slow of foot, and he’s smart enough to make up some of the difference anyway.
The lack of size and athleticism means Wendell probably doesn’t have the tools to be a true superstar in the NBA. He doesn’t project as a player who can consistently create shots for himself or others, instead working as a highly effective fulcrum in a dynamic offense. So, for teams who desperately want to draft their future number one option on offense, Wendell probably won’t be their guy.
Fit on Clippers:
If DeAndre Jordan uses his player option, Wendell’s fit is a bit tricky, as he would be relegated to the backup center role behind DJ. If DJ moves on, however, Wendell would fit snugly into the Clippers’ starting center position, and would be guaranteed 30 minutes a game barring something unexpected.
In terms of scheme, Wendell is a superb fit as a center in Doc Rivers’ offense. His passing ability is ideal, as Doc’s centers are frequently used in dribble handoffs and as playmakers from the top of the key. Wendell would need to be more confident and decisive in his actions, but he has the tools to really help ignite the Clippers’ offense in the halfcourt. Doc has shown inclinations to go small and space the floor in recent years, and Wendell would finally give him a starting-level center who can stretch the floor with outside shooting. This could also make Carter an interesting fit with Montrezl Harrell, as it would allow Trez to post up on the block without another big man clogging the lane. While he doesn’t possess the incredible rim-running talent of Jordan, he’s still a more than capable athlete who can finish strong around the basket; he would be a solid pick and roll partner for any of the Clippers’ ball-handlers.
On defense, Carter could fit into DJ’s role easily as a rim-protector who prefers to hang back near the basket rather than hedge or switch onto the perimeter. Although Wendell isn’t quite DJ as a rebounding presence, he should still be a near-lock for double-digit rebounds if given substantial minutes, and should help make up for the Clippers’ usual lack of size elsewhere on the perimeter. Basically, he’s a feasible short-term DJ replacement who is also capable of much more, especially on offense.
Wendell Carter is being overlooked in this draft in favor of big men who are more athletic (Marvin Bagley III, DeAndre Ayton) or boast more ridiculous dimensions (Mo Bamba, Jaren Jackson Jr.). He shouldn’t be. While he doesn’t have the superstar upside of some of those other players, Carter is a high-floor prospect who still possesses a ceiling as a perennial All-Star. Even in this stacked draft class there’s no way he should be available to the Clippers at 12. But between some teams hungering for higher upside players, and others that don’t want big men, there’s a chance that Carter falls to the Clippers. If he does, he would immediately become the best prospect on the team since Blake Griffin, and a worthy player to build the franchise around going forward. He’s that good.