Heading into Thursday night’s NBA Draft, former Maryland forward Robert Carter Jr. wasn’t guaranteed to be taken, but most services projected him to get drafted in the second round after a solid showing at the draft combine boosted his stock.
Former Terps center Diamond Stone was off the board first, as expected, but probably later than most anticipated when the Los Angeles Clippers traded for him at pick number 40. Then maybe surprisingly, Jake Layman was selected ahead of Robert Carter Jr. at number 47 by the Portland Trail Blazers. Many Maryland fans might have been surprised they didn't hear Carter's name announced before the Jazz selected Tyrone Wallace with the final pick in the draft. Carter signed with the Golden State Warriors soon after the draft ended.
So just why did the Maryland big, who averaged 12.3 points on 55.4 percent shooting from the field, 6.9 rebounds, and 1.9 assists per game, not get picked?
Carter is more similar to Dez Wells than you may think
Carter's agent told CSN Mid-Atlantic's J. Michael that the Georgia native rejected offers to be drafted in the second round by both the Atlanta Hawks and Denver Nuggets because both teams wanted to send him overseas for at least a season.
Atlanta probably had room on their roster for Carter to fight for a 15-man spot, but there would be little chance he played at all during the regular season, should he have made the team. Behind All-Star power forward Paul Millsap, the Hawks already have Mike Scott eating up most of the leftover minutes. The Hawks also selected Baylor's Taurean Prince in the first round, which would have narrowed Carter's chances for a roster spot even more.
Denver likely has no roster spots open at the moment. They have three impending free agents who will likely be replaced by three first round picks with guaranteed contracts. This would explain why the Nuggets asked Carter to spend a year overseas before they can bring him back later when there is a spot open for him.
The Wizards offered to take Wells with their second-round pick under the condition he spend a year overseas, a source said last year. Wells politely declined as he wanted to continue his basketball career in the United States, but has yet to see pro action while floating in the D-League.
Carter will begin his journey to making a NBA team’s 15-man roster by joining the Golden State Warriors summer league team. From there he will look for a training camp invite either from the Warriors or another team in the NBA that liked what it saw.
Talented big men slipped while other names leapfrogged Carter, hurting his selection chances
When you see Skal Labissière and Deyonta Davis fall well out of the lottery, teams that were previously looking to draft a player like Carter had options they did not think would be available to them so late.
According to Draft Express, Labissière and Davis were the 10th and 11th-best prospects in this year’s NBA draft class. Falling all the way to 28th and 31st, respectively, in the draft hurt Carter's chances of being drafted at the power forward position.
The probability of Carter, 44th-rated prospect according to Draft Express, getting drafted went from bad to worse when players previously thought of to be worse prospects than the Maryland power forward were selected prior.
The biggest surprise was Pascal Siakam jumping up from the 52nd rated prospect, according to Draft Express, to getting selected by the Toronto Raptors in the first round, 27th overall.
Additionally, the Pacers, Celtics, and Jazz started a late run on power forwards late in the draft and all of them were worse prospects than Carter according to Draft Express. Georges Niang was picked 50th overall, despite a 69th prospect ranking, Ben Bentil was only one spot behind Carter as a prospect at 45 but was selected prior to the Georgia Tech transfer, and Joel Bolomboy got selected 10 spots better than his 62nd player ranking.
A lot of the players who leapfrogged Carter from a rankings standpoint are probably willing to spend a season overseas if asked and/or are simply favored by the teams they were selected by because of playing style.
Carter simply might not be good enough to warrant a draft pick
The fact of the matter is that Robert Carter is almost definitely not going to be a superstar in the NBA. He has a solid offensive game with post moves and 3-point shooting ability, which should get him a solid shot at making a pro roster, but besides that it is tough going for Carter.
Analysts have noted that the Maryland big was not extremely athletic, as he was constantly getting burned on defense by other stretch fours beyond the arc or quicker players off the dribble on switches. Without athleticism, a player has a lower ceiling and less margin for error. During some of his pre-draft workouts, Carter was forced to guard smaller players if a team did not bring in a balanced group, so many clubs probably saw firsthand the issues the 6’9 forward might have going forward.
If Carter is able to improve his conditioning, he won’t have to take plays off on the defensive end of the floor as well and will have more energy to crash the boards on both ends. Despite his impressive 7’3 wingspan, Carter was a reason why the Terps failed to dominate on the glass with all of their size last season.
Still, it is not the end of the world that Carter wasn’t picked in the second round because those contracts aren’t guaranteed. The Golden State Warriors seem to be a good spot for him to start because of his 3-point shooting capabilities, but he will be asked to do a lot defensively.