Former Bulls No. 7 Pick Outranks Nikola Vucevic in Player Rankings

Wendell Carter Jr., Nikola Vucevic

Getty Wendell Carter Jr. #34, Orlando Magic, Nikola Vucevic #9, Chicago Bulls

Almost two years after the Chicago Bulls traded Wendell Carter Jr., among others, for Nikola Vucevic, it appears that the former has surpassed the latter ranking-wise among players.

In a December 14 The Ringer story, multiple analysts ranked the top 100 players in the league. Both Carter and Vucevic made the cut, but Carter was ranked no. 80, while Vucevic was ranked no. 88. Kevin O’Connor singled out Carter’s defense as one of his biggest strengths.

“He’s a stout interior defender who moves fluidly in tight spaces, with long arms and a solid frame that make him an enforcing rim protector in drop coverages or in help. Those same qualities make him a strong post defender too, and in recent years he’s played some of the best defense of anyone against the likes of Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid. Carter has the agility to switch onto the perimeter against forwards and wings, giving him scheme flexibility,” O’Connor said.

By contrast, Rob Mahoney singled out Vucevic’s issues on the defensive side of the floor among his worst flaws as a player.

“For all the good Vucevic does in cleaning the glass, he’s slow-footed in rotation and doesn’t offer resistance at the rim. He’s undeniably lacking in what might be the most important part of a center’s job. If Vucevic were a solid defensive anchor, the wealth of what he brings to an offense would feel like a hefty bonus. Without it, the entire Vucevic experience hinges on a good-not-great jumper and a respectable post game,” Mahoney said.

O’Connor Praises Carter’s Offensive Abilities

After praising what Carter brings on the defensive end, O’Connor detailed the strengths Carter brings offensively.

“He’s a talented passer who makes quick reads and throws accurate passes, but he’s never been surrounded by good shooters in his career,” O’Connor said. “He’s a strong screener and a skilled interior scorer who has soft hands and court awareness to catch tough passes and then finish in a blink. Though he’s not a high-flying leaper, he elevates quickly on layups and has a nose for the offensive boards.”

Before Carter was drafted by the Bulls in 2018, O’Connor compared his skillset to Al Horford of the Boston Celtics.

In 15 games this season, Carter is averaging 16.6 points, 9.1 rebounds, and 3.3 assists while shooting 51.5 percent from the field and 34.6 percent from three.

Mahoney Praises Vucevic For Offensive Versatility

Mahoney explained that Vucevic’s value as a player comes from what he does on the offensive side of the floor.

“Vucevic’s greatest strength might be the sheer variety of spaces he can occupy. If the Bulls wanted to hammer possessions through Vucevic in the post, he would happily and capably manage. If it made more sense for him to run the pick-and-pop game with DeMar DeRozan, Vucevic would be perfectly comfortable there, too, flaring naturally out to the three-point line. Whether it’s more valuable to have Vooch set up in the middle of the floor as a hub for the entire offense or park him off to the side as an accessory to the action, there’s always a role he can fill,” Mahoney said.

In 26 games this season, Vuvevic is averaging 16.2 points, 10.7 rebounds, and 2.8 assists while shooting 49.5 percent from the field and 36.8 percent from three.

Read More