A third-year Duke basketball pro is showing assertive behavior this season.
Not as a Duke basketball one-and-done. Not in his two-plus campaigns with the Chicago Bulls. No, despite ranking No. 7 overall on the 247Sports 2017 Composite as a recruit and then going No. 7 overall at the 2018 NBA Draft, Wendell Carter Jr. has never quite been the centerpiece of a team since graduating from Pace Academy in Atlanta.
What Carter has been, though, is Mr. Consistency — at least when healthy.
Though the 6-foot-9, 270-pound big man missed 59 games across his first two seasons in the league due to his various thumb, ankle, and tailbone injuries, he has started every game he’s played in as a collegian and professional. Plus, between his time in Durham and Chicago, Carter has always averaged 10-14 points and 7-10 rebounds.
But on Friday night, albeit in a 117-115 road loss to the Los Angeles Lakers (7-3), the mere 21-year-old exhibited his yearning to reach new heights. Symbolically speaking, Carter did so by instinctively pick-and-rolling and then emphatically dunking over future Hall of Fame forward LeBron James at the start of the second half to give the Bulls (4-6) a lead.
On Chicago’s next possession (as seen in the one-minute highlight clip below), after a turnover from James, Carter smoothly knocked down a baseline jumper.
And following the game, with a season-high 23 points to go along with seven rebounds while shooting 9-for-15 from the field and 5-for-6 from the foul line, Carter let the media know in six words what he thought about his viral slam and overall performance:
“This is definitely who I am.”
High praise for the Duke basketball alum from Chicago’s centerpiece
Again, Wendell Carter Jr.’s 2020-21 stats aren’t much different from his past two seasons and his one year at Duke. That said, taking out his first two lackluster outings, he’s averaging 14.3 points and 8.6 boards while shooting 57.9 percent from the field. Now, star guard Zach LaVine, who is averaging a career-high 26.0 points, sees a difference in his teammate’s role as a legit weapon:
“We just told him, ‘Man, you’ve got to be aggressive. Sometimes, you think too much out there.’ He was great [on Friday], especially in the second half. When they were doubling me, I was telling him, ‘I’m coming to you.’ And he was making the right plays. He was scoring. He was finding the open shooters. Wendell’s a really smart player. And if he doesn’t think too much, I think he’s great.”
Carter will be in the Staples Center again at 4 p.m. Sunday when the Bulls face the Los Angeles Clippers (6-4) and fellow Duke basketball product Luke Kennard.
Stay tuned to Ball Durham for more on Wendell Carter Jr. plus other Duke basketball news and views.