Rockets: 5 best young players to target in return for James Harden

Houston Rockets James Harden (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Houston Rockets James Harden (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /
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Wendell Carter Jr. of the Chicago Bulls (Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images)
Wendell Carter Jr. of the Chicago Bulls (Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images) /

Number 5: Wendell Carter Jr.

The Chicago Bulls have been searching for another Michael Jordan since the day that he retired for the second, but not final, time at the conclusion of the 1998 season. There was a brief moment of hope that Derrick Rose would become the franchise savior but his time in the sun was cut short by a series of devastating knee injuries.

In James Harden, the Bulls would finally recapture some of the magic that Jordan left behind. No player has ever come as close to replicating Jordan on the offensive end as Harden has.

To get Harden the Bulls would have to pay a heavy price. While the trade would almost certainly be headlined by Zach LaVine, it is Wendell Carter Jr. that the Rockets should be excited about adding.

The 21-year-old out of Duke had an impressive second season where his rebounding and shooting numbers saw significant upticks. Carter went from shooting 48.5-percent from the floor to 53.3-percent and improved from 7 rebounds to 9.4 rebounds per game.

Carter’s future position is up for debate as a 6’9 power forward or center. The Bulls predominantly used him as a center, which could be his best position on offense, but was likely a move to squeeze Lari Marraken onto the floor.

The upside for Carter is sky-high. His free-throw shooting, historically the best indicator for 3-point success, has been just about league average at 76.1-percent which means a credible 3-point stroke is very much in the cards.

His ability to hit free-throws at an acceptable rate is even better because he gets to the line far more often than the average player. His 44.3-percent free-throw attempt rate was 70-percent better than the league average last season.

The best offensive players do two things, score at an above-average efficiency and get to the free-throw line a ton, and Carter at 21 already does both. The only thing holding him back from becoming a household name is his environment.

Carter has seen sub-20-percent usage rates in his career, which is simply insane for a blue-chip player on a rebuilding team. His 11.3 points per game last season came on only 8 field goal attempts, which represents a slight dip in his field-goal attempts from his rookie season.

In Houston, with an expanded role, Carter would have no problem averaging over 15 points and 10 rebounds per game, which are incredible numbers for a 21-year-old to post. If the Bulls decide to get in on the James Harden sweepstakes then the Rockets should make sure one of the pieces they get in return is Wendell Carter Jr.

Next: Number 4