The Charlotte Hornets are in need of a backup point guard. Both Jalen Brunson and Jevon Carter could fill that role. Who should Charlotte pick?
It’s no secret that the Charlotte Hornets are in need of a backup point guard. Since Jeremy Lin‘s departure, they’ve rotated through Ramon Sessions, Brian Roberts, Michael Carter-Williams, and Julyan Stone. To say the least, it’s a less than stellar lineup.
This need has linked Charlotte to both Collin Sexton and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander in the first round with the 11th overall pick. If the Hornets decide to look elsewhere with the pick though (Miles Bridges, anyone?), they’ll still need a point guard. Two potential options in the early second round are Jalen Brunson and Jevon Carter.
The two upperclassmen led their teams to postseason play in the NCAA March Madness tournament. Carter was knocked out in the Sweet 16 by Brunson and the Villanova Wildcats, who would eventually go on to win the title. Now in the draft together, how do they compare to each other? Using the categories of scoring, passing, ball-handling, defense, athleticism, and intangibles, we can see how they stack up.
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Jalen Brunson: 18.9 PPG, 52.1 FG%, 40.8 3P%, 80.2 FT%, 63.5 TS%
Jevon Carter: 17.3 PPG, 42.2 FG%, 39.3 3P%, 85.8 FT%, 54.9 TS%
Looking at the raw stats, Brunson has the slightest edge here. The Wooden Award winner is a sniper, with an incredible shot from deep. His spot-up jumper is impeccable, and Brunson can certainly shoot it coming off the dribble as well. He ran the pick and roll masterfully in his time under Jay Wright and punishes defenders if they go under screens.
At the rim, Brunson is a crafty finisher. Despite measuring at only 6’2″ with a 6’4″ wingspan, he plays heady and takes quality shots close to the basket. He’s strong, decisive, and has a great understanding of angles.
Comparatively, Carter posted similar stats to Brunson but was less efficient from the field. Still, his three-point shooting ability will be something many NBA teams desire. Carter is better as a spot up shooter from beyond the arc but is still respectable off the bounce.
Inside the paint, Carter has a unique game. His lack of size and explosiveness prevent him from being an incredible finisher, so he’s morphed his game. Instead of going all the way to the rim, Carter will utilize his full tool belt and impress with a variety of floaters.
Between the two, the scoring is close, but the advantage in efficiency favors the Villanova guard.
Jalen Brunson: 4.6 APG, 1.8 TOs, 26.6% AST%, 10.7 TOV%
Jevon Carter: 6.6 APG, 2.6 TOs, 36.2 AST%, 14.4 TOV%
Again, on paper, Brunson and Carter are similar. Brunson led the attack for the lethal Villanova offense, distributing to potential draft picks Mikal Bridges, Donte DiVincenzo, and Omari Spellman. His passing was a major reason the Wildcats’ offense was as efficient as it was.
Their 4 out 1 in style requires players to always be making the correct reads, something Brunson is adept at. While he may not be the flashiest passer, Brunson is among the most reliable. His basketball IQ is evident as he almost never makes a wrong pass.
Carter ran a slightly different offense at the college level. Their 5 out system is predicated on pass-and-cut type movements, and Carter excelled at it. His 6.6 APG numbers were good for third in the Big 12.
He can make risky passes at times, trying to force the ball in lanes that might not be open. However, he’s got plenty of experience in the pick and roll, and that skill should translate well to the NBA.
The advantage is ever so slight, but the Wooden Award winner’s incredible ability to keep possessions favors him over the competition.
Neither Brunson nor Carter are elite at handling the rock. They’ve got similar games creating off the dribbling, favoring change of pace moves to free up space.
Brunson is a lefty, which makes him just a bit harder to guard off the dribble. At the NBA level, he’ll have to continue to utilize his footwork to get past defenders as he doesn’t have an incredible first step. With a quality jab step though, his ability to be crafty with the ball will make him an acceptable back up ball handler.
The West Virginia product is a bit less fluid off the bounce, but he uses his jerkiness to his advantage. He is able to start and stop on a dime. Combined with his strong core and upper body it makes him hard to guard. Additionally, for as often as he changes direction and acceleration, you’d expect more turnovers, but Carter has great control over the pill.
The two are equivalent ball-handlers in their present capabilities, but Carter has just a touch more potential to harness on that end of the court.
Jalen Brunson: 0.9 SPG, 0 BPG, 1.7 DWS
Jevon Carter: 3.0 SPG, 0.4 BPG, 2.8 DWS
To this point, Brunson and Carter have been neck and neck, but we see some separation here. Most of Brunson’s questions come on the defensive end of the court. His size and relatively short wingspan make him a one position defender; a major drawback.
To be clear though, Brunson’s defensive issues don’t stem from lack of effort. He plays hard on that end of the court, and his basketball IQ keep him in a good position most of the time. As long as he is paired with a coach that has an above average defensive scheme, he should at least hold his own.
Carter is an incredible defensive player. He hangs his hat on his nagging pressure he keeps up for 94 feet, which he’s been doing since his high school days. His strong upper body allows him to bump and grind every possession, ripping the ball from his opponents’ hands.
Sometimes though, Carter can overestimate himself. Picking up full court is a monumental task, and on the rare occasion he gets beat, he does give up 5-on-4 attempts. His toughness and grittiness more than make up for it though. Carter plays with an infectious energy on that side of the ball, he makes me nervous for ball-handlers just watching through a screen.
While Brunson will project to be an average defender at best, Carter is clearly the superior defender. Should he end up in Charlotte, they’d have a guard to lead their defense.
Jalen Brunson: 6′ 1″ without shoes, 8′ 0″ standing reach, 6′ 4″ wingspan, 198 lbs., 10.59 lane agility, 3.11 shuttle run, 29″ standing vertical, 7 bench reps
Jevon Carter: 6′ 0.25″ without shoes, 7’11” standing reach, 6′ 4.25″ wingspan, 196 lbs., 11.04 lane agility, 3.05 shuttle run, 29″ standing vertical, 14 bench press reps
How much closer could these two guys get? Their measurements and times are practically identical. The only notable differences on paper are Brunson’s slight edge in lane agility and Carter’s advantage in bench press reps.
Brunson is certainly quick, but he doesn’t possess breath-taking athleticism. His lack of a killer first step will limit him off the dribble. Defensively, he’ll struggle to keep up against De’Aaron Fox types, but that’s a tough guard to ask of anyone.
Similarly, Carter has faced many of the same criticisms. He’s not track star fast, which may limit him as a creator. His vertical also leaves something to desire. Just a couple extra inches could mean the difference between 50% and 55% at the basket. Carter’s biggest standout is his bench press numbers. Beefier guards won’t be able to power through him like they might smaller guards.
Between the two, there is no clear winner. Brunson might be just a bit faster, but Carter is just a tad stronger.
Despite all their other combined strengths: shooting, passing, defense; it may be their intangibles that are the biggest draw for both Brunson and Carter.
There is little left to be said that hasn’t been already regarding Brunson’s leadership skills. Villanova won two national titles in his three years there. He was an instrumental piece in those teams, starting 115 games in his tenure there. In addition to the aforementioned Wooden Award, Brunson also has an AP Player of the Year Award and an All-American first team to his name. That pedigree is just one way to try and quantify what he is on the court: a leader.
Coaches will turn to Brunson when their team needs a steady hand. He’s wise, makes excellent court reads, and directs traffic when he needs to. Despite being a rookie, it would shock few to see Brunson step in day one and contribute as a leader. With his winning attitude, it’d be hard for him not to.
Carter has an impressive resume to tout as well. He was a finalist for the Wooden Award, led the NCAA in steals during his senior season, and was a second-team All-American. More than that though, Carter sealed a spot in the hearts of a great many Mountaineer faithful.
His frenetic defense motivates teammates on that end of the court. It’s something bizarre, unknown. But when Jevon Carter steps on the court, his teammates play better. The inspiration he brings is something almost mythical.
You couldn’t possibly pick wrong between these two. Both upperclassmen, they bring years of leadership experience and motivation to the floor. How can you choose between two perfect entities?
After six rigorous rounds of comparison, the decision is split. 2 for Brunson, 2 for Carter, and 2 ties. It feels anticlimactic to say that it’s just too close to call, but it really is. If you’re someone that thinks Charlotte should favor a more steady-handed sniper next to Jeremy Lamb, then you’ll probably fall into the Brunson camp. Those who think an electric defender is perfect alongside Malik Monk will likely prefer Carter.
Personally, I love Jevon Carter. There’s something about the way he plays that sparks a fire in me. He puts terror into people he guards. When I watch him, I want to go play pickup ball and yell “cookies!” as a much better defender rips the ball from someone’s hands. That said, there’s still something nagging me that says Brunson might end up being just a bit better. I still can’t decide.
I’ll just leave it up to you.
All stats courtesy of Sports-Reference and NBA.com.