CHICAGO – The Bulls went big in the draft, taking Duke’s Wendell Carter Jr. with the No. 7 pick Thursday night and giving themselves another versatile frontcourt player to go with Lauri Markkanen.
The 6-foot-10, 259-pound Carter was the second Blue Devils big man taken after Marvin Bagley III went to Sacramento at No. 2. With his ability to hit from the outside and score down low, he averaged 13.5 points and 9.1 rebounds as a freshman last season while helping the Blue Devils advance to the Elite Eight.
The Bulls also took Boise State’s Chandler Hutchison with the No. 22 pick. A 6-7 forward, he came on strong the past two seasons and averaged 20 points and 7.7 rebounds as a senior.
The Bulls are banking on Carter to form a potent tandem with Markkanen and help them climb in the Eastern Conference coming off a 27-55 season.
“We’re going to complement one another on both ends of the court,” Carter said. “It’s very similar to who I played with at Duke – Marvin Bagley.”
One of the knocks against Carter is his foot speed. It affected him at times in transition and on defense. He also ran into foul trouble on occasion, even fouling out in 22 minutes during Duke’s overtime loss to Kansas in the NCAA tournament.
Carter insisted he is making big strides when it comes to his lateral quickness.
“I’ve made a huge improvement in that,” he said. “It’s something I was working on night in and night out. I definitely showcased that in the workouts. It definitely paid off, all the work.”
And he sees himself as a match for the Bulls.
“I think I fit perfectly,” Carter said.
The Bulls went all in on rebuilding on draft night last June after years of treading water in the wake of the Derrick Rose era. They dealt star Jimmy Butler to Minnesota for Markkanen, Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn and made their intentions clear.
The Bulls went on to finish with their worst record since the 2003-04 season and miss the playoffs for the second time in three years. Although the Bulls didn’t land a top-three pick in the lottery, management believes the team is in a better position.
The 7-foot Markkanen emerged as the team’s best player and one of the league’s most productive rookies with his ability to hit from the perimeter and go inside. He averaged 15.2 points and 7.5 rebounds after being drafted seventh overall, and the Bulls certainly would take that from Carter.
Dunn made a big jump in his second NBA season, although LaVine showed some rust coming back from a torn ACL in his left knee. The two-time slam dunk champion missed the first 42 games and sat out the final 14 because of tendinitis in the knee. He is set to become a restricted free agent and could be in for some interesting negotiations, with the Bulls and other teams.