3 Interesting Wendell Carter Jr. Questions Entering 2022-23 Season

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Will Wendell Carter Jr. Be A Top Five Defensive Center This Season?

This is one of those instances where the eye test and statistics align. Just by watching Carter play, you can tell how locked in he is defensively. The numbers from last season truly accentuate that. The game’s best offensive centers really struggled when the Magic’s 6-foot-10, 265-pounder stood in their way. 

Last season with Carter as the nearest defender, per Second Spectrum tracking data, Nikola Jokic shot 11-of-30 (41.7 percent), Joel Embiid shot 13-of-34 (41.2 percent), and Nikola Vucevic shot 11-of-31 (35.5 percent). 

Even some of the quicker, more electric perimeter-oriented scorers had a rough time when Carter switched onto them. Jayson Tatum, for instance, made just 1 of his 6 shots with Carter as the closest defender, while Donovan Mitchell went 2-of-6, De’Aaron Fox 1-of-5 and LaMelo Ball 1-of-3. 

What’s most interesting, though, is that Carter isn’t your conventional defensive big. He’s not much of a shot blocker, nor does he take many charges (had just one last season). But he moves his feet well, has an extremely high basketball IQ, and is tough to back down in the post. 

How Well Will He and Paolo Banchero Mesh Together?

Not trying to call it an exact match, but perhaps a Banchero-Carter blend will have a Tatum-Al Horford vibe to it. Carter has long been compared to Horford, going back to his Duke days. The Celtics bringing Horford back last season, one could argue, helped Tatum become a better playmaker, simply because of Horford’s adaptability. If you re-watch Boston’s playoff games last season, particularly their wins, you’ll notice Tatum and Horford connect quite frequently for easy baskets.

Unique about the Magic is that they have good playmakers at every position. Obviously, you’d expect the guards to be effective orchestrators, but the same can be said of most of their frontcourt players, including Banchero, Carter, Franz Wagner, Chuma Okeke, and Bol Bol. 

What Does Carter Need to Improve the Most This Season?

Self-creation is one thought. Magic Head Coach Jamahl Mosley said late last season that we could see Carter go at slower and/or weaker defenders in isolation or even in pick-and-roll as the ball handler a little more. But ultimately, outside shooting is probably the best answer here. What should be acknowledged is that Carter has already made major progress in this area. After making just 27 3-pointers during his first three NBA seasons combined, he drilled 70 of them in 2021-22, which was eighth-most among bigs. Mo Bamba also ranked in the top 10 among bigs in threes made. 

Having bigs who can space the floor is a huge benefit. That will be especially important for Orlando, one of last season’s worst offensive teams. As a team, they shot 33.1 percent from 3-point range, which ranked 28th in the league. Not including any of the call-ups from Lakeland, each of their players shot under 39 percent from beyond the arc.



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