Wendell Carter deserves a look for Team USA

Jan 23, 2023; Orlando, Florida, USA; Orlando Magic center Wendell Carter Jr. (34) dunks the ball against the Boston Celtics in the fourth quarter at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 23, 2023; Orlando, Florida, USA; Orlando Magic center Wendell Carter Jr. (34) dunks the ball against the Boston Celtics in the fourth quarter at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports /

Wendell Carter is fairly unassuming on the court.

He does not do anything spectacular. There are no highlight-reel blocks or high-flying dunks. He does not make deft and precise touch passes or wrack up crazy stats.

What Carter does is just solid. He is reliable and consistent. And he still puts up good numbers.

Carter is not a player that stands out, especially on a national stage. He still suffers from the Jack of all trades, master of none label from his draft process in a lot of ways.

In the big picture too, Carter is still the rock-solid center of an Orlando Magic team on the rise but still largely anonymous in the bigger scheme of the NBA.

Wendell Carter has established himself as a solid center option for the Orlando  Magic. As Team USA puts together its World Cup roster, they should call on the big man for some help.

Team USA is starting to assemble its team for the FIBA World Cup this offseason. It is starting to look like with the early invites to the team’s training camp that they are preparing to use this World Cup to pass the baton to a new generation of players.

And so the question should come up: Why not Wendell Carter? Why wouldn’t Carter get consideration for the team?

Shams Charania of the Athletic reported Tyrese Haliburton, Anthony Edwards, Mikal Bridges and Austin Reaves have committed to the Team USA roster this summer.

Potential returnees from the 2021 Olympic team might include Devin Booker, Bam Adebayo, Zach LaVine and Jayson Tatum. It certainly sounds like the team could be due for a shift with Damian Lillard, Kevin Durant, Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday entering the final stages of their career — and with gold medals already in tow.

The center position was always a shaky one for Team USA. It is usually the team’s biggest weakness.

In the Olympics, they relied on Bam Adebayo, Jerami Grant, Draymond Green and JaVale McGee as their center rotation. There is definitely the potential for the team to fill that role. Especially with Adebayo coming off a Finals run ahead of the July training camp and August tournament.

Team director Grant Hill is certainly working on a few things — Team USA is trying to recruit Joel Embiid to play for the U.S. instead of France for the 2024 Olympics in Paris and he is also reportedly trying to recruit Paolo Banchero away from playing for Italy. Banchero is expected to sit out the World Cup this offseason.

There is still a team to put together though. And while Team USA has not always taken the strongest roster to the World Cup, this is an opportunity to introduce some fresh players to the Team USA program.

And with the dearth of big men, Carter with his versatility and solid physical play should be in the running.

From a pure rankings perspective, Carter is very much in the running.

Using The Ringer’s player rankings as a model, Carter is the No. 15 U.S.-eligible big in the league, behind some other former Team USA players like Draymond Green, Myles Turner and Brook Lopez. Using FiveThirtyEight’s player rankings, Carter ranks as the No. 15 American center in the league.

There are a few other youngish bigs who could get the call like Deandre Ayton (who was born in The Bahamas, but has never played international basketball), Evan Mobley and Nic Claxton among them. Other first-time Team USA members like Robert Williams III or former All-Star Jarrett Allen could also get a look. So could rookie shot blocking phenom Walker Kessler.

Carter could be a little down the list. But he is very much in the running considering how many players do not sign up for international duty.

A lot of those top players — like Anthony Davis, for instance — are not likely to sign back up either because of previous service and concerns about their age. The U.S. talent pool is still deep even with the international teams catching up and making these tournaments more competitive.

Especially because it is uncertain who will sign up to play this year. The Team USA roster for the World Cup is still very much coming together.

Carter is the exact kind of player who could step up if the national team gives him the call.

Carter averaged a career-best 15.2 points per game with 8.7 rebounds per game. He shot a career-best 59.1 percent effective field goal percentage.

He would work well in the FIBA environment because he is a tough defender who can step out and hit from the perimeter just as well as he can set good screens. He may not be able to finish above the rim as other uber-athletic big men, but he is smart and can work as a pivot on offense from the high post where he remains a very underrated passer.

Not to mention, he has a good track record of defending elite centers like Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid throughout his career. He is just a smart positional player. The kind of player that tends to do well in the FIBA environment.

And with Team USA often leaning on stars to fill their roster, Carter can act as a high-level role player to serve as an outlet and workhorse for the team. That is something he already does nightly for the Magic to great effect.

Carter, for his part, has been part of the Team USA system before.

He last played for the youth national team in the FIBA U17 World Championship in 2016, where he averaged 10.1 points and 7.4 rebounds per game. That tournament saw him team up with Collin Sexton to not only win the gold medal but get named to the All-Tournament team — Sexton was the tournament MVP.

Carter has not done much with Team USA since then, not even getting to play with the Select Team after the draft (this is where I would put in my rant about how Team USA needs to foster their national team players from the youth levels to the senior levels and this is why they might lose out on Banchero, but that is for another day).

Carter does seem like a perfect fit to help this World Cup team as it comes together and as Team USA looks to add new players to help grow the team for the Olympics next summer in Paris and beyond. There might indeed be bigger center names. But Carter would be a solid and versatile option to help the team.

It would be nice to see him get a camp invite at least, if he is interested of course.

The Magic should be fairly busy for the World Cup this summer. Franz and Moe Wagner are expected to suit up for Germany once again. Bol Bol has at least hinted he will play for South Sudan’s team. And Goga Bitadze is eager to play for the Republic of Georgia this summer too.

Next. Offseason Needs: Backup Center. dark

There will surely be a few more players who get the call-up for international duty for the late-August/early-September tournament. Perhaps Carter will be one of them.