Wendell Carter was the centerpiece of the Orlando Magic’s blockbuster trade with the Chicago Bulls involving all-star center Nikola Vucevic. And now it is obvious why.
Wendell Carter showed glimpses of being efficient and a long-term keeper with the Bulls. He was never properly utilized.
He was mainly asked to do tasks strictly relegated to centers. Such as dribble hand-offs, pick and rolls, rim runs or passing out of traffic to an open player. He was not used enough outside of the paint and almost discouraged from trying outside shots.
That is why he was generally regarded as a young and coming player and somewhat of a hidden gem but unlikely to reach his full potential with the Bulls.
Still, at only 22 years old, he is nice compensation for Vucevic and worth taking a flyer on.
Wendell Carter was a player who needed a change of scenery and took advantage of his time with the Orlando Magic to reclaim his potential.
In fact, he was alluded to as a player that would benefit the most from a change of scenery by ESPN NBA reporter Mike Schmitz. Schmitz mentions some things that have been on full display so far as a member of the Magic during the last month.
Carter showed all of that potential again with the Magic. He averaged 11.7 points, 8.8 rebounds and 0.8 blocks per game while shooting 49.3-percent from the floor in 22 games for the Magic. The only thing that seemed to slow him down was a sprained ankle and then an eye abrasion late in the season.
There was a lot of positives to take from Carter’s game.
These positive attributes include the fact he can defend effectively far away from the hoop, is an adroit rim protector and can rebound. While on the offensive end, he is able to serve as a useful dive man, an exceptional passer out of the short roll or step out and hit jumpers. He can even be capable of stymying someone switched on to him in the low post.
This explains why Carter was considered a high upside guy coming out of Duke and a former lottery pick, who still produced.
This illuminated by the fact he averaged 13.5 points, 9.1 boards and 2.0 blocks per game while shooting well better than 50-percent from the field and even 40-percent-plus from behind the arc in college. This was in spite of playing alongside first-team All-American Marvin Bagley in the frontcourt.
Still, he only showed glimpses of his potential until recently.
One could argue that one of his recent coming-out parties in pinstripes was against his former team. He finished with 19 points and 12 rebounds in a win last month on the road. He definitely is a center Steve Clifford believes in.
Who can blame him because he is a multi-skilled, physical center?
Even better, he seems to bring enough to the table that he can even play some power forward, which makes sense at his size.
He is not strictly a center or a power forward. In that sense, he can try to emulate the likes of Al Horford and Juwan Howard, both of whom he was compared to coming out of college who played both the 4 and the 5 in the NBA.
That definitely can come in handy because Orlando has a plethora of talented young big men like power forward Chuma Okeke and center Mohamed Bamba. If he can play alongside each of them without stymieing their development, that is even better.
His numbers are not significantly improved this year since he arrived in Orlando this season versus what he was putting up with the Bulls. But to be fair, he missed time with an ankle injury and then missed another week after getting poked in the eye.
Even before then, he saw his minutes being cut to some extent of the previous five matches. Carter showed what he needed to show as a defender and potential playmaker, even as the Magic tried to shoehorn him into the same sets and roles Vucevic played within their offense.
Carter will benefit from having a full offseason with his new team. Some confidence and stability will go a long way for him.
It is unlikely Orlando drafts or signs any notable big men because they believe in him.
Keep in mind that next season is a contract year before he hits restricted free agency. Carter still has a lot to prove and a full season with the Magic and under Steve Clifford will give him every chance to cement his spot.