Last week after the NBA Lottery Bill Simmons went on SVP & Russillo and again made a comment about the Sixers strategy this season ruining the promise of a bright future for MCW. He referenced Antoine Walker and said he fell into bad habits his rookie season, that irrevocably changed his career. He went on to say MCW, like Walker was stat chasing for the rookie of the year award making MCW damaged goods. Maybe there is some merit to what Simmons said in regard to MCW stat chasing this season. At times it felt that way, but as a whole I still disagree with Simmons and many other members of the NBA media who believe MCW’s season was more of a mirage than anything else. If Carter-Williams wants to be one of the best players in the NBA 95% of that is on Carter-Williams himself. The other 5% is divided between Brett Brown’s ability to develop MCW and Sam Hinkie’s construction of the roster.
The 19 wins during the 2013/2014 season will not have any effect on MCW’s future. Nobody is ok with losing. Everybody prefers winning. But some professional athletes are less motivated than others. Some athletes are less concerned with losses and more concerned with their paycheck or the late night entertainment named Sweet Pea. Michael Beasley, the 2nd overall pick in the 2008 draft, was a part of a Heat team that won 43 games and went to the playoffs his rookie season. The 2008/2009 Heat team had future HOF Dwyane Wade, solid veterans like Udonis Haslem and Shawn Marion, and fellow rookie Mario Chalmers who was selected 34th in the draft. The Heat head coach was Erik Spoelstra. Pat Riley was the GM and Micky Arison was the owner. The same coaching, management, and ownership core that has led the Heat to the last three NBA Finals. Beasley, who had all the talent in the world, lost his mind in South Beach and saw his career go in the toilet. Chalmers, a far less talented player, has been the starting point guard through the Heat’s championship run.
The players that have the most success in any professional sports league are the ones that are blessed with god given talent and work the hardest at their craft because they are maniacal about winning. Durant and the Sonics/Thunder won only 19 games his rookie season. And in his second season with the addition of Russell Westbrook they won only 23 games. Now Durant and Westbrook on playing in the Western Conference Finals. Steph Curry won only 26 games his first season, and is now considering one of the best guards in the game. And last season ROY Damian Lillard’s Blazers won 8 of their last 34 games, but made it to the second round of the playoffs this year thanks in large part to the ice in Lillard’s veins. Carter-Williams did lose Spencer Hawes and Evan Turner midseason, both casualties of the rebuild. But was that really a bad thing considering Zach Lowe’s post this week included an anecdote about Turner looking into walking back to the team hotel from practice due to his frustration from a lack of playing time? For all we know MCW could have been negatively influenced by Turner when he was a member of the Sixers locker room. Getting back to more tangible reasons to be excited about MCW, using Basketball-reference.com and their incredible Play Index tool I went as far back as the 1999/2000 season (trying to include all of the current top guards in the game) and filtered for guards that averaged at least 30 minutes per game as a rookie.
The Player Pool (27): Victor Oladipo, Tyreke Evans, Trey Burke, Steve Francis, Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook, Ricky Rubio, Raymond Felton, O.J. Mayo, Michael Carter-Williams, Mario Chalmers, Lebron James, Kyrie Irving, Kirk Hinrick, John Wall, Jason Richardson, Jamaal Tinsley, Eric Gordon, Dwyane Wade, Derrick Rose, Damian Lillard, Chris Paul, Brandon Roy, Brandon Knight, Brandon Jennings, Bradley Beal, Andre Iguodala Compared to the others on the list here is where Carter-Williams ranked in all the important guard categories:
Field Goal Attempts: 5th
Free Throw Attempts: 5th
Offensive Rebounds: T-4th
Defensive Rebounds: 1st
Field Goal %: 20th
2 Point Field Goal %: 16th
3 Point Field Goal %: 24th
Free Throw %: 26th
Offensive Rating: 25th
Defensive Rating: 15th
Assist %: 9th
The takeaway from this, Carter-Williams has work to do particularly when it comes to all areas of shooting and getting his turnovers down. Both of those deficiencies are correctable. If Carter-Williams puts in the work his shot will improve, and as he continues to acclimate to the NBA game his turnover numbers should decline. The positives to take away from where Carter-Williams ranked is the Sixers pace did not have as dramatic of an effect on his numbers when you consider his minutes were toward the middle of the group. He’s an elite rebounder for his position, does a good creating free throw opportunities and is solid as a distributor. Based on his rookie numbers there are two players who Carter-Williams compares favorably to, and when you think of his game, build, and athleticism it makes sense. Those two players are Russell Westbrook and Jason Kidd. All three players can fill up every category on a stat sheet on a given night. None of them were or will ever be thought of as elite shooters. MCW is obviously not the same class of athlete as Westbrook (he might be alien) but does have a significant length advantage over other point guards much like Kidd had during his career. MCW can’t score quite like Westbrook, but does a better job involving his teammates like Kidd. Here are the rookie numbers for all three guys.
Could Carter-Williams stall out in his development like Tyreke Evans or go crazy like Steve Francis? Absolutely. But the trajectory of his career is going to be determined by Carter-Williams and nobody else. The 19 wins are nothing more than that, 19 wins.