Coach Jim Boylen sees Wendell Carter Jr. as key cog in Bulls’ offense
Carter still has to avoid early foul trouble, but he’s checking all the boxes in the Bulls’ new-look offense.
CLEVELAND — That performance in New York was why Wendell Carter Jr. was drafted by the Bulls.
It was the ideal showcase game for the second-year center.
He scored 20 points despite few plays being called for him, grabbed 10 rebounds and blocked three shots.
But the game against the Grizzlies wasn’t ideal for Carter. He got into foul trouble early and scored only seven points. And Wednesday against the Cavaliers, he committed two quick fouls and had to be replaced midway through the first quarter by Luke Kornet.
“I worry about foul trouble [with Carter],’’ coach Jim Boylen said. “I worry about him being so competitive that he sticks his hands in. I worry that he wants to guard everybody on the floor. Sometimes he over-rotates. Sometimes he comes across the floor when he doesn’t need to, and maybe it opens something up. Not because he doesn’t know what he’s doing or he’s not intelligent. He’s one of our smarter guys. It’s ’cause he cares, and he thinks he can cover everybody. The guys I’ve been around that have been like that end up being pretty damn good players.’’
And Boylen thinks Carter will be no different.
The good news was that he actually played against the Cavaliers. Carter woke up with a swollen eye and missed the morning shootaround, but the issue eventually cleared up as the day went on.
And while injuries have far too often derailed Carter since he was selected No. 7 overall in the 2018 draft, Boylen is really excited about his understanding of his role and his acceptance.
“I think it’s a fair statement that [he doesn’t have a lot of plays called for him],’’ Boylen said. “We have to share, and he’s one of those guys that has to share with who we’ve got out there. But I also feel like in our offensive system, the five-man is a huge part of it. He sets most of the ball screens, he runs that first post and sets most of those early transition screens. You could argue that the way we play is more dependent on the five-man than anybody. Maybe not to score, but to influence what we do. And he’s embraced that, and it’s good.
“All he talks about is winning. He’s never asked me about play-calls, he’s never asked me about numbers, minutes, anything. ‘Coach, we gotta win, we gotta try to win.’ ”
Don’t expect Carter’s mentality to change, either. He lived that life in his one season with a talented Duke frontcourt, and he’s accepting of it with the Bulls.
“I’m not really big on having to have a play called for me,’’ Carter said. “I’m just trying to find a way to have an impact on the game.
‘‘Sometimes I score a lot of points, sometimes I get a lot of blocks and sometimes I’m defending a lot. Just pick and choose what I can do throughout the game.’’
The Bulls didn’t think Darius Garland would make it to them with the seventh pick last June, and they were right. The talented guard was grabbed No. 5 overall by the Cavaliers.
But they still did a lot of homework on him.
“I coached Bryce Drew, Bryce Drew recruited and coached [Garland at Vanderbilt], so we felt like our intel and our feel for him were pretty good,’’ Boylen said.
“Very, very talented. So it looks like Cleveland got a good one there.’’