Wendell Carter Jr. had some explaining to do.
The former Duke big man started his workout tour Monday with the Bulls, which meant again going on the defensive about why he was overshadowed by Blue Devils teammate Marvin Bagley III — and why the Bulls would be justified in spending a top-10 pick on him in the NBA Draft.
“[Even] all my teammates weren’t able to show all their strengths,’’ Carter said. “That’s just the college life. You buy into whatever college you go to, and you do whatever you’ve got to do to help the team win. I think — not even speaking for myself, but all my teammates — we’re going to be able to show a lot more that we can do at the next level with spacing on the floor.
“Frankly, it’s the NBA. It’s one-on-one, it’s not no zone, like we were playing. There’s a lot more space on the floor.”
But should the Bulls buy into that and be willing to use the No. 7 overall pick on a player who had very few dominant moments in college?
Bagley had those dominant moments. That’s why he’ll likely be gone by the third pick.
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Carter was a frontcourt Robin to Bagley’s Batman, averaging 13.5 points and 9.1 rebounds and scoring more than 20 points in just four games. His college best was 27 points against Evansville, which doesn’t exactly scream, “Pick me! Pick me!”
Yes, Carter can rebound, and at 6-10, 250-plus pounds, he takes up room in the paint. But he feels more like a gamble for the mid-first round, not the top 10.
Carter wasn’t hearing that, doing his best self-promotion after a workout at the Advocate Center.
“I take a lot of pride in rebounding,” he said. “I don’t like for people to out-rebound me. I just fight. I’m a great teammate, and that comes to being a great cheerleader on the bench or setting a great pick for one of my teammates to get open. I think I’m good at all the intangibles, the little things that a lot of fans might not recognize but a lot of coaches do.”
The debate on him continues. According to a source, there’s still a huge divide within the Bulls’ front office about whether Carter is worth the No. 7 pick — and that was even after his workout.
“I see myself fitting in with every team that I’m ranging for,” Carter said. “I’m hearing [No. 3 overall] from all the way to 11, 12, 13.”
Villanova’s Mikal Bridges was the second player the Bulls worked out Monday. He checks a lot of the boxes for the Bulls on the offensive and defensive ends. More important, he would fill a huge vacancy in the starting lineup as a small forward.
And even more intriguing, he’s similar in mindset to a young Jimmy Butler, having worked his way up from an overlooked high school prospect to a college player who built his game through defense first.
“I take a lot of pride in it, so I’m never going to relax on the defensive end,” Bridges said. “That’s where I started off as a player when I was in college. Just start as a defender, and keep progressing as a player every year. Keep doing that.”