Carter is not to blame for Bulls' rebounding woes

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Chicago Bulls center Wendell Carter Jr., left, pulls in a rebound next to Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum (0) and guard Jaylen Brown (7) during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Chicago, Saturday, Jan. 4, 2020.

    Chicago Bulls center Wendell Carter Jr., left, pulls in a rebound next to Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum (0) and guard Jaylen Brown (7) during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Chicago, Saturday, Jan. 4, 2020. Associated Press

  • Chicago Bulls center Wendell Carter Jr., left, rebounds the ball against Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert battle for a rebound during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Chicago, Thursday, Jan. 2, 2020. The Jazz won 102-98.

    Chicago Bulls center Wendell Carter Jr., left, rebounds the ball against Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert battle for a rebound during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Chicago, Thursday, Jan. 2, 2020. The Jazz won 102-98. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 3/1/2020 5:48 PM

Wendell Carter Jr. returned from an ankle injury just in time for the Bulls to get overwhelmed inside by the New York Knicks on Saturday.

But don't be misled. Carter is not the problem.

 

Giving up points in the paint hasn't been a huge issue for the Bulls this season, but rebounding has been. As of Sunday morning, the Bulls ranked 28th in the league in rebound percentage at 48.2. That basically means whenever a shot clangs off the rim, the Bulls collect the rebound 48 times out of 100.

Against the Knicks, Carter played just 18 minutes, since he's working his way back into game shape. But he led the Bulls by a wide margin with 9 rebounds. Next-best was Cristiano Felicio and Tomas Satoransky with 4 rebounds each. Thad Young had 3 boards in 32 minutes.

Looking at the full season, Carter has clearly been one of the Bulls' best players, maybe their best two-way player, when it comes to both offense and defense. Getting him back on the floor after 22 games off with a high ankle sprain will only help the cause.

The Bulls' rebounding problem isn't because of Carter, it's everyone else. Height matters when it comes to grabbing rebounds, but just as important are numbers and the Bulls need more guys hitting the boards. If one team has three guys fighting for a rebound and the other team has one or two, the better-represented squad almost always wins.

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Rebounds per 36 minutes played tells a good story, since it sets everyone at equal playing time. Carter leads the Bulls at 12.0, which ranks in the upper half of starting NBA centers.

In comparison, Cleveland's Andre Drummond is at the top with 16.7. Portland's Hassan Whiteside is at 16.4, Milwaukee's Giannis Antetokounmpo 16.0, Utah's Rudy Gobert 14.7 and Philadelphia's Joel Embiid 14.0, among some notable leaders.

Carter is tied with Orlando's Nikola Vucevic and ranks ahead of Minnesota's Karl-Anthony Towns, Denver's Nikola Jokic, Miami's Bam Adebayo and the Lakers' Anthony Davis.

The Bulls have just one other player who ranks in the top 160 in the league when it comes to rebounds per 36 minutes, though, and that's Felicio.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The Bulls' power forwards, Young (7.0 per 36) and Lauri Markkanen (7.7), don't rebound particularly well. Backup center Daniel Gafford (6.6) and Luke Kornet (5.4) don't get many boards. The only guard on the roster who rebounds well for his position is Shaq Harrison (6.2).

It's obvious while watching the games. Players can frequently be seen standing 12 feet away from the basket watching a teammate battle for a rebound. Sometimes they don't bother making a couple extra steps to box someone out.

Transition offense is one area where the Bulls have done well. They rank seventh in the league in fast-break points and it's tough to get out and run if everyone's backing up to help grab the defensive rebound. But better to scrap a fast break than give up an easy putback basket.

After the game in New York, Carter talked about wanting to play more power forward in the future since he is an undersized center at 6-foot-10. The Bulls' roster already doesn't fit together well, they don't need Carter bumping Markkanen or Young out of their spots.

They'll be fine with Carter at center. He just needs some help.

Twitter: @McGrawDHBulls

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