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Juicy Fruit Rookies

NBA Rookie Rewind presented by Juicy Fruit: Which rookie compares favourably to one of the league's most versatile big men?

juicy-fruit-rookie-comparison-ftr-illustration
Juicy Fruit Rookie Comparison (NBA.com Illustration)

We're switching up the usual format for our Juicy Fruit rookie comparisons this week by taking inspiration from our blind resumes series.

If you're unfamiliar with how it works, we've been removing the names of leading All-Star candidates and comparing their statistics to figure out who is most deserving of making a trip to Charlotte, North Carolina for next month's game.

Today, we're doing the same to compare one of the top picks from the 2018 NBA Draft class to a multi-time All-Star who is still in the NBA.

Both of the players below are big men who are known for their ability to do a little bit of everything on both ends of the court. The rookie has even modeled his game after the All-Star because of how he affects the game in "so many different ways."

"He doesn't have to have the ball in his hands to help his team win," the rookie told The Athletic before the season. "That's what I like about him."

While the rookie has a long way to go before he's even half the player the veteran has turned out to be, it's encouraging that it's almost impossible to tell them apart based on their numbers as first-year players. The only real difference between them is in the rebounding column - though the gap isn't quite as large when compared to how many they pulled down on a per minute basis.

Player MPG PTS REB AST STL BLK
A 25.2 10.3 7.0 1.8 0.6 1.3
B 31.4 10.1 9.7 1.5 0.7 0.9

Their shooting numbers and advanced numbers are even similar, with Player A holding a slight edge in True Shooting Percentage and Player Efficiency Rating.

Player FG% 3P% FT% TS% USG% PER
A 48.5 18.8 79.5 54.4 19.4 15.4
B 49.9 0.0 73.1 53.9 16.0 14.7

So who are they?

Player A is Chicago Bulls rookie Wendell Carter Jr.

Player B is Boston Celtics centre Al Horford in his rookie season.

It's worth nothing that Horford was a couple of years older than Carter when he made his rookie debut. Whereas Horford spent three seasons at Florida, where he won back-to-back national championships, Carter was a one-and-done at Duke.

That championship pedigree helped Horford make an immediate impact on the Atlanta Hawks. He started in 77 of the 81 games he played as a rookie and was the team's fifth-leading scorer, second-leading shot blocker and leading rebounder.

Horford was recognized as one of the best rookies in his class, making the All-Rookie First Team alongside Kevin Durant, Jeff Green, Luis Scola and Al Thornton. He was also instrumental in the Hawks ending their postseason drought, as they made the playoffs for the first time in nine years.

Horford has since developed into one of the more versatile big men in the league.

Carter, meanwhile, has started in 44 games for a Bulls team that has one of the worst records in the NBA. There's been some growing pains along the way - getting benched in a lopsided loss to the Orlando Magic being at the top of the list - but he's flashed his Horford-like potential on a number of occasions.

Carter's best performance of the season came against Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets on Oct. 31. In 37 minutes of play, the Atlanta, Georgia native scored 25 points, grabbed eight rebounds, dished out five assists, blocked three shots and came up with three steals.

"They're going to be battling each other as top big dudes in the league one day," Bulls guard Zach LaVine told reporters after the game. "We're eight games in now. I want to see what [Carter] looks like at 80 games. It's going to be nice."

Carter did more of the same in a recent matchup with the Indiana Pacers, posting 15 points, eight rebounds, three assists, three steals and one block in 42 minutes of play. The Bulls ended up losing in overtime, but they outscored the Pacers by seven points with their rookie on the floor.

If those stat lines are a sign of what's to come for Carter, the Bulls might have very well found their Al Horford of the future.

Even Horford can see it.

"I mean, I think he's his own guy," Horford told The Athletic when asked about the similarities in his game and Carter's. "But as far as similarities, I think he's as close as I've seen of anybody."

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