Early in the free agency news dump on Twitter, the Bulls surprised some by stealing Jevon Carter from their divisional rival the Bucks on a 3-year, $20 million deal. Carter grew up in the Chicago area as a Bulls fan. Part of the reason why this was a surprise is that the Bulls had 3 free agents that play a similar position (Coby White, Ayo Dosumnu, and Patrick Beverley) and it was speculated that the team intended to bring all 3 of those guys back.
The team was able to agree to bring Coby and Ayo back, Pat Bev moved on to the 76ers. The other part that was surprising about this move is that it was assumed that if the Bulls decided to move away from one or more of their guards, it would be in favor of size since the Bulls are very guard heavy. I will say, for me personally, the signing of Jevon Carter was a pleasant one.
I’d like to start out by saying that I’m an Ayo Dosumnu fan and I’m happy he is staying with the team. Having said that, last season showed that Ayo can’t fill the void at starting point guard left behind by Lonzo Ball’s knee problems. Now I don’t think Carter can fully fill that void either, but I do think he can do a better job replicating what Lonzo was so good at.
I don’t think it was a coincidence that the Bulls played better after adding Patrick Beverly from the buyout market and immediately inserting him into the starting lineup, he proved to be a better shooter, decision-maker, and defender than Ayo in that role, and I think Carter can be a super-charged version of what Beverly gave the Bulls. There is some speculation among fans that Carter might not be a lock for the starting point guard spot, I personally think he’s a clear choice and we will go over the reasons why I believe that.
The first reason and the most obvious skill that Carter brings to the table is his perimeter defense. Carter is a strong point-of-attack defender and despite his height, he also has held up well in certain wing matchups. Some fans think Caruso will start over Carter, and though I do think Caruso is a better all-around player, Head Coach Billy Donovan has said many times he likes Caruso coming off the bench to give the team a boost of energy halfway through the 1st quarter and I agree with that.
I also think it’s important to try to manage Caruso through the regular season to have him available for as many games as possible. Carter can give the Bulls good defense at the point of attack while the team is able to keep Caruso in a more suitable bench role as well as helping keep Caruso’s minutes at a rate where his body can hold up. I do think Carter and Caruso could both close games with the trio of LaVine, DeRozan, and Vučević.
We’ve seen lineups, where there’s another guard out there with the core of Caruso, LaVine, DeRozan, and Vučević, have success to varying degrees, obviously most notably with Lonzo Ball, but Dosumno, Beverly, and White have all played a decent amount of minutes with those 4 as well.
The duo of Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso wreaked havoc on the perimeter defensively, creating turnovers and making it hard for perimeter guys to get into the paint and attack the admittedly not great rim protection that Vučević brings. I think Carter can better replicate the defense Ball brought to the perimeter than the other options the Bulls have tried there. I see the Carter-Caruso-LaVine-DeRozan-Vučević lineup being the go-to closing lineup.
The element of Carter’s game I’m actually most excited about is the 3-point shooting he showed last season. Carter shot 42% from deep on decent volume (6.7 per 36 minutes). I expect his volume to rise with an expanded role, even if his percentage can’t hold at 42%, the Bulls need guys with quick releases that can confidently shoot.
The team finished last in 3-point attempts and 3-point makes last season which was a product of the team often playing 2-3 guys at a time that are only comfortable shooting wide-open 3s and would also often pass up decent looks. This was the biggest reason why the Bulls struggled on offense last season (24th in offensive rating via NBA.com). The Bulls didn’t shoot enough 3s to keep up with most modern offenses and teams could pack the paint against the Bulls because of that lack of shooting. Carter will help with pure 3-point volume and the spacing problems the Bulls had.
The other impressive thing I’ve noticed about Carter while studying film on him, is I think he actually has some solid versatility when it comes to his 3-point shooting. As I said above, most of the Bulls’ role guys are only comfortable shooting wide-open spot-up 3s. I think Carter’s shooting can allow the Bulls to get a little more creative with off-ball movement/action. Carter showed good progress at movement shooting for the Bucks last season.
The Bulls have also struggled to push the pace in transition, which is a good time to get open looks from 3. Carter can help the Bulls get out and run and get some 3-point attempts up early in the shot clock.
Carter will also have an opportunity to handle the ball more when he’s out there with only one of LaVine and DeRozan, which the Bulls do like to stagger those 2’s minutes so they always have one out there. In those minutes, I would like to see Carter show off his pull-up 3-point game in pick-and-roll action especially if he’s placed more in the DeRozan-led lineups. The Bulls don’t really have anyone that can take those kinds of shots outside of LaVine and occasionally White.
Carter’s shooting and defense make him a great addition to the team and hopefully a great addition to the starting lineup. I think it is a great fit for both sides. The Bulls need someone that can defend and shoot 3s for their starting point guard and Carter can do that.
Although Carter struggles at times to score inside the 3-point line as well as create for himself in the halfcourt, the Bulls have high-volume creators in LaVine and DeRozan to handle that as well as an effective post big to feed down low in Vučević, so there is no need to burden Carter with those responsibilities. I honestly think this was one of the more underrated moves this offseason and I think Carter and the Bulls have the potential to surprise some with their play this season because of that.