The NBA draft season is in full bloom. The New York Knicks are making a huge decision that could alter the franchise and Wendell Carter Jr. needs to be part of the discussion.
The New York Knicks are smack dab in the middle of a rebuild and seem to have a plan. There are areas of concern across their entire roster. The plan, according to general manager Scott Perry is to draft the best player available regardless of position. Wendell Carter Jr. is a player that should find himself in that discussion.
Carter Jr. was born on April 16th, 1999 in Atlanta, Georgia. He went to high school at Pace Academy located in Atlanta. He excelled in academics to the point that he had his choice of attending college at either Duke or Harvard University. Luckily for basketball fans, Carter Jr. chose Mike Krzyzewski and the Duke Blue Devils. His freshman season propelled him into a lottery pick and a potential target for the Knicks at number nine.
Modern-day big man
Wendell Carter Jr. has all the tools to be an effective player in today’s NBA. At 6-foot-10, 252 pounds, Carter Jr. can defend the paint. His 2.1 blocks per game last season ranked sixth in the Atlantic Coast Conference. He finished the season with a defensive rating of 92.8. That was good for fifth in the ACC.
Carter’s shooting ability makes him a mismatch on the offensive end of the court. He shot 41.3 percent from behind the three-point line on 1.2 attempts per game. His 73.8 free throw percentage ranks second among the big men projected to be lottery picks. The 19-year-old’s player efficiency rating of 28.2 ranked second in the ACC.
The Knicks have had to deal with their fair share of injuries over the past few seasons. Kristaps Porzingis has missed a total of 60 games since being drafted in 2015. Enes Kanter played banged up all season and still was forced to miss 11 games due to injuries. Tim Hardaway Jr. missed the whole month of December and a total of 25 games on the season. Carter Jr. was as durable as they come during his one season in college. He was one of three Duke players to start all 37 games.
Fitting next to a superstar
The biggest factor in determining whether or not to draft Carter Jr. is how he would fit next to Kristaps Porzingis. There should not be any issues on the offensive end. Carter Jr. averaged 13.5 points, 9.1 rebounds, and 2.0 assists in 26.8 minutes per game. That was playing alongside 6-foot-11, 235 pound Marvin Bagley III. He shot 56.1 percent from the floor and tallied 16 double-doubles. The issue some experts believe will be on the defensive end when it comes to chasing around stretch fours. In all reality though, adding another shot blocker will improve the overall defense.
Guarding the paint would not be an issue if Carter Jr. is drafted by New York. At first glance, guarding the perimeter will be the problem. Porzingis routinely got burnt last season closing out on outside shooters. This was a result of him having to cheat off of his man to help defend the paint.
Compared to Kanter
As great of a rebounder as Enes Kanter is, his vertical cannot be more than an inch or two off of the ground. He did manage to pull down 3.8 offensive rebounds per game in his first season with the Knicks. That is almost a full rebound more than Carter’s 2.9 per game. Wendell Carter Jr. will not be confused with the most athletic prospect in the draft. He is, however, head and shoulders above Kanter in that regard. Substituting Carter Jr. for Kanter would provide the Knicks with a defensive anchor in the paint. Thus, allowing Porzingis to focus on guarding his man.
Carter’s playing time will be directly affected by Kanter’s decision this offseason. If he decides to opt-in for the final year of his current contract then Carter Jr. could be learning by coming off of the bench. New York could decide to pass the big man in order to take a player who could contribute from the start.
Wendell Carter Jr. is definitely a player that the Knicks need to consider at nine if he is available. He could realistically be drafted anywhere between the Chicago Bulls at seven and the Philadelphia 76ers at ten. Depending on how the draft shakes out from number one to number eight will determine who the Knicks select.