Chicago Bulls

Rookie Wendell Carter Jr. hopes to bring defensive mindset to playoff hopeful Bulls

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It didn't take long for Wendell Carter Jr. to impress as a pro as the Chicago Bulls' 7th overall pick in the 2018 draft opened a lot of eyes with his play at summer league.

Carter Jr. averaged 14.6 points, 9.4 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game in Las Vegas and was named to the All-NBA Summer League first team. He looks to be everything the rebuilding Bulls need - young, athletic and an incredible knack for blocking shots.

In his one year at Duke, the 19-year-old finished the year with 76 total blocks, the second-most in school history by a freshman. He finished the year with a 92.8 defensive rating.

Perhaps just as important as his ability to defend is his attitude and hunger. Carter Jr. wants to defend at a high level and is bringing a different attitude with him to the Bulls backline.

"I feel like I'm a phenomenal defender," Carter Jr. told NBA.com. "I'll only get better as time comes. As I play more games, learn personnel, I'll become even better on the defensive end. It's something I've always been able to do all my life and I feel like it doesn't take too much skill to be a good defender...it's a lot of effort. I'm the type of guy who doesn't like people to score on me and I like to win games, so I feel like winning the battle on the defensive end is what's going to help us win games."

The Bulls were at the bottom of the league a year ago in defensive rating (109.1) and finished dead last in shots blocked at 3.5 a game without a true rim protector lurking the paint.

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Sure Not Now

A lot of the defensive clean up duty fell on Robin Lopez last season. While at times capable, it didn't always show in 2017-18 as he posted the worst defensive rating of his career. Bottom line is he couldn't go at it alone and having another defensive-minded player to run alongside him should help the team as a whole on that end of the floor.

As for the other end of the floor, Carter Jr. doesn't spend too much time talking about his offence, even though he had the second-most efficient season in the ACC last year behind only Duke teammate Marvin Bagley III.

He knows his numbers will come in the flow of the Bulls' offence.

"I feel like I'm a great rebounder, on the offensive end I score when I can. I don't force the action, I score when I'm open," Carter Jr. continued.

Making the jump from college to the pros has its set of adjustments, as a lottery pick from one of college basketball's most successful programs to a team that missed the playoffs the previous season. Like most rookies that come from a major program like Duke, Carter Jr. expects success for his new team and is looking forward to proving the doubters wrong.

"I feel like our first immediate goal is to make it to the playoffs. We got a lot of doubters around the league saying we're not going to finish that high in the standings, but I feel like if we just come together play hard and everybody just stars in their role...we shouldn't be short of a playoff run."

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