The Chicago Bulls selected Duke big man Wendell Carter Jr. with the No. 7 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft on Thursday night.
It was the dependable pick. If John Paxson and Gar Forman were your college-aged children, you’d be proud of them for making the responsible decision.
Carter is 6-foot-10 and 260 pounds with a 7-foot-3 wingspan and a 9-foot standing reach. He’s going to protect the rim and rebound and he’s got post-up skills to go along with expanding range. ESPN also made sure to drive home the intelligence narrative (appropriately) by making mention of the fact that he was also considering playing at Harvard before selecting Duke.
He’s not an elite athlete and there is some concern about how that might balance against his strong defensive instincts in a league that now requires bigs to switch onto guards regularly to defend the pick-and-roll. However, his floor is relatively high and he’s still got All-Star potential at his peak.
But Chicago sports radio will almost certainly be mixed on the selection come Friday morning and it won’t really have anything to do with Carter. It’ll be almost solely dependent on the superstar potential of Michael Porter Jr.
A year ago, Porter was considered the potential No. 1 overall pick in this draft. Unfortunately, he missed most of his only season at Missouri because of a back issue and lingering concerns (along with an unwillingness to share his medical information) caused a massive draft-day slide.
Porter’s agent attempted to control the damage by giving up medical information that was more optimistic than what most teams had heard, but it was too late. Porter slid to the Denver Nuggets at No. 14 and Carter (along with every other pick from 6-13) will now be compared against him forever because of the incredibly high ceiling Porter possesses.
He’s a potentially elite scorer with incredible length that should also make him a pesky defender on the wing provided he can still get around. However, that’s a major if and the medical situation ultimately turned him into the biggest boom-or-bust prospect on the board.
But in a league where you’ve got to get lucky to land a handful of stars that will allow you to take a swing at a championship, Porter may have been Chicago’s best chance of grabbing a future top-10 player in the NBA. He may have been everybody’s best chance in this draft despite the overall quality and depth of this class.
GarPax have never been known for crawling too far out on a limb and Carter was the pick that’s less likely to blow up in their faces. So of course it was the pick they made.
That won’t protect Carter from a life of comparisons to Porter. Which doesn’t necessarily mean anything, but it does set up the possibility that Carter can be a very good player and come extremely close to hitting his long-term potential and make the Bulls a better basketball team in the process… but it still might not be good enough.
If Porter is a superstar and meets the baby-Durant expectations that some seem to have for him, Carter’s contributions might pale in comparison. Of course, if Porter’s back explodes then Paxson and Forman look like relative geniuses so long as Carter gives you anything noteworthy.
It’s a chance they were obviously willing to take. But if you’re one of the many Bulls fans who already question their ability to create a title contender, this probably isn’t going to sit particularly well.
And that’s somewhat of a shame because it’s not Carter’s fault he’s not Porter. Not to mention, we have no idea if that’s actually a good thing or not yet.