Bulls

Bulls big man Wendell Carter Jr. headlines buzz-worthy players in Summer League

Here are a few reasons to pump the brakes on Summer League hype: Jeremy Lamb, Glen Rice Jr., Jerian Grant and Tyus Jones.

All have been Summer League MVPs or Summer League championship game MVPs since 2013.

So does that make what Bulls rookie big man Wendell Carter Jr. has been doing in the last week more of a mirage than of things to come?

Not at all. What Carter, the No. 7 overall pick in the draft last month, has been doing translates to the regular season. A willingness to play defense, protect the rim and play fearlessly are traits that stand up when the games really start to mean something.

Carter also has shown signs offensively — such as scoring 19 points on 9-for-11 shooting from the field in the Bulls’ 95-83 victory against the Mavericks in their Summer League playoff opener — but even he is taking a realistic approach to that aspect of his game.

‘‘I knew coming into this next level I would definitely prosper on the defensive end,’’ Carter said. ‘‘The offensive end, I’m just learning more and more as I go.

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‘‘Offense, that’s the thing that’s going to come. That’s something I don’t want to force at all. I’m not chasing any numbers by any means. I just want to win.’’

Fortunately for the 6-10 Carter, he won’t be asked to be an immediate scoring threat once the regular season starts. The Bulls have shooting guard Zach LaVine, who will be in the first year of a four-year, $78 million contract, and Lauri Markkanen for that.

As of now, he will help anchor the second team, playing alongside fellow big man Bobby Portis. Considering Portis’ shooting ability and Carter’s improving outside game, the second team should have some success.

That’s why the Bulls’ brass can leave Las Vegas feeling good about what they saw from Carter. He has shown he has the skills to play at the NBA level and the mentality to play there, too.

He’s not alone, either. Here are a few other buzz-worthy players through Summer League pool play:

John Collins, Hawks

The Hawks had a list of things they wanted to see the second-year big man improve on, and he checked those boxes quickly. He was shut down by the coaching staff after two dominant games.

Collins was 16-for-47 from three-point range as a rookie with the Hawks, who wanted him to improve his range while staying
aggressive at the rim. He definitely looked like a player who is feeling more comfortable.

Kevin Knox, Knicks

Think of a Stacey Augmon-style player at the rim, only with an outside-shooting touch.

Knox’s Summer League performances have been must-see-TV, and the Knicks finally might have started piecing together a young, exciting roster.

Now let’s all sit back and watch them ruin it.

Grayson Allen, Jazz

It didn’t take the Jazz long to get over the Gordon Hayward hangover, and Allen is another reason why.

Allen’s predraft camp combine was eye-opening, and his athleticism followed him to Vegas. But what really has stood out is his ability to continue to play the role of villain. Opponents seem to be more focused on throwing an elbow in his direction than on what’s going on in the game.

Collin Sexton, Cavaliers

Bulls fans should watch his growth carefully. It came down to Carter and Sexton with the Bulls’ No. 7 pick last month, and Carter won out.

What Sexton has shown in the last week, however, is a willingness to do whatever is asked of him in a game. That was the very reason the Bulls debated taking him.