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Preseason Player Profiles: Nahziah Carter

Can Carter take the leap from 6th man to star in his junior season?

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Washington Huskies vs Utah State Aggies Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Nahziah Carter; Junior; Rochester, New York

6’6, 205 lbs. Class of 2017: 3 stars, #246 overall (247 Composite)

2017-18 Stats: 21 minutes, 8.1 points, 2.4 rebounds, 0.9 assists, 47.8% FG, 31.0% 3pt, 64% FT

Italy Stats: 24.1 minutes, 18.3 points, 8.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 54% FG, 47.6% 3pt, 55.6% FT

There was a time when it appeared that Naz would be playing his college basketball in Dayton, Ohio for Archie Miller. Instead, Miller took the Indiana job which caused Carter to look around and who should he find but Coach Hopkins looking to assemble a recruiting class on the fly. The high flying athlete from Rochester took a visit to Seattle and very soon after committed to the Huskies.

Carter has shown himself to be a quality role player over the past 2 seasons. But that was with a number of upperclassman plus Jaylen Nowell largely dominating the ball. Now Carter has the opportunity to show that he can be a legitimate go-to scoring option. Is he up to the task? Let’s find out.

Offensive Game

When you watch Carter play the first thing that stands out is his supreme leaping ability. Carter is the best dunker that the Huskies have had since eventual NBA Slam Dunk champion Terrence Ross. He is capable of snuffing the life out of any defender trying to meet him at the rim and placing him directly onto a poster.

While casual fans may know Carter for his incredible highlight reel dunks, he has expanded his offensive arsenal to become a very well rounded scorer. Naz’s 3-pt % dropped from 40% in his freshman season to 31% last year. However, Carter went 4/4 in the final game of his first year to bump the percentage up from around 35% which was probably closer to his true shooting mark.

He was known as a minus shooter coming out of high school and it is obvious to see why. Carter has a very long windup to his shot which requires him to be essentially wide open in order to truly be in rhythm. Notice in the video below that Carter has to first dip down after catching the ball and then starts his jump out of almost a partial crouch. The stats bear it out that his shooting suffers without this extra step. Carter shot 45% on unguarded catch and shoot attempts last year per Synergy Sports but shot just 24.3% when guarded in the same situations. Most players shoot better when unguarded but not to that degree.

An encouraging sign for Carter during the Italy exhibition is that he appears to have cut down the length of his shot and the improved form seemingly resulted in better accuracy. Carter shot almost 48% from 3pt range this summer but it was a small sample size and there have been stretches where he’s shot nearly as well over 4 games before. If Carter can become a true 40% shooter from deep on high volume usage then I don’t know how you guard him.

Because Carter is already an exceptional isolation scorer. Last season, Naz finished in the 89th percentile nationally in points per possession when in isolation. He is of course a serious threat to take it to the rim and dunk all over a defender who doesn’t stay in front but he developed a very nice pull up free throw line jumper last year. If Naz drove to the free throw line and jumped straight up (not slightly off balance) then he was seemingly guaranteed to make the shot.

There are still questions about the non-scoring parts of Carter’s offensive game. He has a career assist rate of about 8% which is pretty typical for a player who doesn’t pass much. Once Carter drives the ball he’s either going to shoot it or pull up his dribble and pass it back out without putting the next guy in a position to get up a good shot. But unlike many other players with that same skill set, Carter isn’t turnover prone. He cut his turnover rate down to 14% last year which is well above average considering his usage. All told I think the coaching staff is ok without Carter doing much in the way of creating shots for others as long as he continues to not turn it over very much.

Defensive Game

Carter doesn’t have a 7’0 wingspan like Matisse Thybulle before him but he has the same kind of quickness and athleticism which makes him an above average defender. Carter was used in both the front and the corner of the Husky zone in his first two years depending on who he shared the court with and I’d expect more of the same this season. When he’s the nominal shooting guard in a jumbo sized lineup then I could see him playing in front and when he’s alongside both a PG and Jamal Bey then he’ll be in the corner.

I’ve mentioned it before in these previews and I’ll say it again that attributing individual possessions to a specific defender in a zone defense is difficult. But Carter graded out per Synergy as UW’s best defender last season on a points per possession basis. Opponents shot just 30.1% with Carter as the primary defender which was good for 87th percentile nationally.

Carter’s steal and block percentages both dropped last season compared to his freshman one which to my eye appeared to be more about him gambling less than his defense getting worse. However, in year three and without Thybulle taking up so many of the steal/block opportunities it would be nice to see him get his hands on a few more balls this season to truly become an elite defender.

Expectations for 2019-20

There was no question during the Italy exhibition tour that Carter had asserted himself as the dominant perimeter scorer on the Husky team with the loss of Jaylen Nowell. The Dawgs were however missing both Jaden McDaniels and Quade Green who are the two most likely candidates to challenge him for that role.

I’m willing to still give Carter the edge as the secondary scorer alongside Isaiah Stewart. That’s largely because I got to watch him play with this version of the team in Italy and it was clear that the rest of the team deferred to him at the end of possessions.

There is absolutely no question that Carter will be in the running to play the most minutes on this Husky team. In the biggest games of the year I don’t see Carter sitting for more than 3 minutes in a given half. His versatility on both sides of the court and his experience in the system will make him one of the most important drivers of team success whether he defers to Jaden McDaniels at times or not.

Per Game Projections: 32 minutes, 14.3 points, 4.2 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 46.7% FG, 34.6% 3pt, 66.7% FT

Catch up on our other preseason player profiles on: Jaden McDaniels, Hameir Wright, Nate Roberts, Bryan Penn-Johnson, Sam Timmins, and Isaiah Stewart.