Any team looking to draft a professional bucket-getting power forward should consider Maryland's Robert Carter Jr. He didn't put up eye-popping numbers this past year at Maryland, but he might just be the best combination of outside shooting and back-to-the-basket scoring from the power forward spot in this draft.
|Age||22 (Born April 4, 1994)|
Carter's scoring prowess was on display last month at the NBA Draft Combine. He logged 35 points and 14 rebounds in 45 minutes over two games in Chicago, displaying range on his jumper (two three-pointers) and the ability to produce on the blocks.
It would have been easier to evaluate Carter's scoring potential had he stuck around for his senior season at Maryland and had the chance to eat up more possessions. But as a fourth-year junior—he played two seasons at Georgia Tech before transferring to Maryland—and in a class considered weaker than what's expected of next year's crop, it's understandable that he chose to enter the draft.
|Robert Carter Jr. by the numbers|
Carter was an efficient producer inside the arc, making 62.9 percent of his twos during the 2015-16 season. And he would have demanded more touches on most rosters.
The Terrapins, however, had one of the most talented starting fives in college basketball, and all five were scoring threats. Maryland has three players likely to land in this draft (Carter, Diamond Stone and Jake Layman), and it could have been four had Melo Trimble opted to go pro.
Carter benefited from transferring and sitting out a year at Maryland; He was a better version of himself in College Park. However, he did perform better at Georgia Tech on the defensive boards, with the seventh-best defensive rebounding rate in the country as a sophomore while grabbing 28.3 percent of available defensive boards, per KenPom.com. That number dropped to 21.4 percent last season.
The team that drafts Carter is going to enjoy a smorgasbord of options when incorporating the big fella in its pick-and-roll packages.
Carter thrived as a screener paired with Trimble this past year. He had the potential to be even more dangerous if he had consistently knocked down three-pointers. He has the form on his jumper to get there, and he also has a good sense of when to roll or pop out for a three.
The more refined part of Carter's game is his ability to score from the blocks or the mid-post. The Terps didn't have to run sets to get him the ball in one-on-one situations on the post, a huge luxury. He was also comfortable catching the ball on the perimeter and then backing his man down off the dribble, as he did in the clip below against Michigan State's Deyonta Davis, a projected lottery pick:
As seen above, Carter is effective creating a window to shoot with a shoulder fake. That was a situation where Davis was guarding him straight up and he had to make a move. Carter's awareness of how he's being defended with his back to the basket is advanced for a college player.
Some big men will simply defer to one of their go-to moves, and it doesn't matter how the defense is guarding them. Carter is effective using his backside to feel out where the defender is, and then typically he'll spin the other way. It helps that he's able to score with both hands and over either shoulder.
That ability to use both hands also translates to the defensive end. Carter blocked 13 three-pointers this past year, which ranked second nationally behind only Iowa's Jarrod Uthoff, according to Jeff Haley of Hoop-Math.com. He could block a shot with either hand.
When most players close out on a shooter, they do so with their strong hand. But if you're right-handed and the shooter is right-handed, a strong close-out can result in a foul because the defender is going across the shooter's body to bother the shot.
In the clip below, Carter becomes the shooter's shadow when he closes out with his left hand and ends up blocking the shot:
Carter focused on slimming down during his redshirt season after transferring to Maryland. He was effective and was listed at 235 pounds last year, which was 12 pounds lighter than his listed weight at Georgia Tech.
But at the NBA combine last month, he weighed in at 250.6 pounds. His body fat percentage (12.45 percent) ranked the fourth-highest of those measured. I'm hesitant to read too much into that. It's possible that his body fat percentage hasn't gone up and he's simply added muscle, which would explain the weight gain.
If that weight gain is because of fat, that's troubling. The predraft process is the time when players should be more motivated than ever to have their bodies right. On the positive side, Carter is definitely less doughy than he was at Georgia Tech. For a heavier-set player, he moves his feet well and was even able to switch a ball screen against a guard in a pinch.
There are some questions about Carter's defense. In the post, he'd sometimes get caught leaning against his man. As a team, the Terps had lapses in focus, and Carter's defensive instincts were also questionable. In the clip below, he tries to cheat out on Marcus Paige coming off an elevator screen, and that allows All-American Brice Johnson a wide-open slip to the basket:
NBA Player Comparison
Carter's game and body type resemble Jared Sullinger and Marreese Speights.
Speights is a good example of how a big man can expand his range and become a better shooter in the NBA. He did not attempt a single three during two years at Florida, and now the Golden State Warriors run set pieces to get him outside shots.
Sullinger was a much more accomplished college player and was more of a true low-post scorer. He's also floated out to the perimeter more in the NBA, shooting 500 threes during four seasons in the league.
Carter carving out a role similar to the one Speights has with the Warriors is plausible. Speights is a professional scorer, and Carter has the goods to get there. But he's also limited athletically, and that's why it will be difficult for him to become a starter-level power forward in the league.
The worst-case scenario would be getting drafted in the second round, not receiving a guaranteed contract before training camp and then showing up out of shape. While there's a lot to like about Carter's skill set, that scenario would likely end in him getting cut and heading to the D-League on a lousy contract.
Carter is likely to go somewhere in the second round, but do not rule out the possibility of him sneaking into the first. Almost any player in the 30-50 range could jump into the late first round this year. It just takes one team falling in love with a guy, and Carter's performance at the combine helped his cause.
I would hesitate to put too much stock in the combine scrimmages, however. It's a glorified pickup game, and the power forwards in attendance weren't exactly known for their defense. Carter wasn't cooking against Draymond Green clones.
The most likely scenario is Carter as a second-round pick, spending a majority of his rookie season in the D-League. If he's a consistent scorer at that level and keeps his body right, he could evolve into a valuable piece on a second unit.
Bring him off the bench, put him in a pick-and-roll, and buckets will be sure to follow.
C.J. Moore covers college basketball for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter, @CJMooreBR.